Knight International Journalism Fellowships

Mozambique: Bring Rural Health Issues to National Attention

Savana reporter Salane Muchanga (left), a trainee of Knight Fellow Sayagues, interviews a Maputo resident on health concerns.

From her base at the weekly newspaper Savana in Maputo, Mozambique, Knight Health Journalism Fellow Mercedes Sayagues produced health coverage that transformed reporting at news organizations across the country.

She coached Savana journalists in the production of more than 200 stories, and the newspaper consistently produced high-quality coverage of issues ranging from alcohol abuse to malnutrition to reproductive health. The coverage increased the amount of attention other media outlets—such as the government-owned daily Noticias—now give to health issues.

Sayagues trained dozens of print and radio journalists—from the capital city Maputo to the most remote rural district, Mueda. The resulting stories brought to light the country’s harsh conditions and painfully poor health facilities. She also produced training resources such as a video on covering obstetric fistula, a disease resulting from poor reproductive health care that affects thousands of women across Africa.

Our Stories


  • Sep 32010

    Seven Dead, Scores Wounded as Riots Spread Across Maputo

    Editor’s Note: Mercedes Sayagues is a Knight International Health Fellow working to improve coverage of health issues in Mozambique. She found herself in the midst of violent riots in Maputo this week, and her reporter’s instincts took over.I was 50 meters away when the bullet hit Helio Rute, slicing a chunk of his skull. Helio was 12 years old and heading home when he was caught between rioters and police on Acordos de Lusaka avenue in Maputo. He died on the spot, one of more than half a dozen killed today.

  • Aug 202010

    Savana, Mozal and Air Pollution

    Last year, the aluminum production company Mozal quietly requested authorization to operate with direct emissions (or bypass the filtering system) while repairing its Fume Treatment Centers (FTC) for six months, at a cost of $10-million. "Sub-optimal engineering in the centers," was the bland term used by Mozal assets president Mike Fraser to explain the need for repairs. Translation: shoddy quality.

    The smelter, one of the largest foreign investments ever in Mozambique, is visible from the highway linking Maputo to South Africa.

  • Jul 132010

    Tinker tailor soldier spy, where does my future lie?

    We are pursuing a great story: More than a hundred teen girls are having fainting spells in a school outside Maputo. The community says ancestors are upset and rituals need to be performed. The Ministry of Health says it is collective hysteria.

    A young journalist that I coach is covering this story.  After a press conference at the Ministry of Health, we go for coffee to discuss story angles, ways of asking questions and of taking notes (he takes notes verbatim and slowly, and admires my arrows, bullets and shortcuts, capturing best quotes as they are spoken).

  • Apr 202010

    Long journey from Metarica to Maputo

    I am the first person in my family and among my friends to go to university. My parents are not schooled. They are peasants. They can’t speak Portuguese, they speak makuhwa. My father, though, was a cheke, a mwalima, learned in the Koran and respected in the village. We lived in Metarica, in Niassa province, in Mozambique s farthest north.

    On Thursday afternoon, when Savana hits the streets, a copy is posted outside the newsroom for passersby to read for free. Who knows if it will inspire some to become journalists?

    We are 11 siblings and I am the seventh, born in 1983. The eldest went to high school and became a border policeman. My other brothers work on the land. My sisters got married early. Two siblings died of disease.

  • Mar 152010

    Hot, humid and deathly

    Editors Note: You don't have to go very far to find health stories in Maputo...just listen in the newsroom.

    The health page was laid out late last week. I had a headache so I went home around 7 pm to lie down. Around 9:30 the editor called: our turn for layout. I hopped on a taxi and dashed to Savana, It was unbearably hot and humid. The newsroom is in the basement of an old house. The sub was sitting on the steps to the garden.

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