Knight International Journalism Fellowships

Uganda: Setting a New Standard for Health Journalism in Africa

Knight International has made huge inroads in health coverage in Uganda. In 2.5 years, Knight Fellow Christopher Conte developed a vibrant community of journalists who now have the expertise to tackle tough health issues including the AIDS epidemic and health-care spending. As part of this effort, he revived a health-journalism association, turned it into a strong organization where he and other experts hold workshops, and handed over its operation to local journalists.

The association now produces an influential monthly newsletter that goes to 700 health-care professionals and journalists. He attracted new funding for the association from a wide range of sources including Johns Hopkins University and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. This included funds for a Ugandan journalism fellow who worked side by side with him and kept the momentum going after Conte left.

He also worked with two leading dailies, The Monitor and New Vision, and a nationwide network of radio journalists to improve health coverage. As we mentioned above, a story on Uganda’s shoddy hospitals prompted the government to apply for — and receive — a $130 million loan from the World Bank.

In July 2010, Conte hosted a meeting of nine Knight Fellows based in Sub-Saharan Africa to share best practices and work together to build a network of regional health journalists. The goals: to share resources and collaborate on stories to improve coverage of health and poverty-related issues throughout the region.

Our Stories


  • Dec 92010

    Better Sources and Tougher Questions Lead to More Funds for Uganda's Hospitals

    A reporter who relies only on official sources will often miss the real story. To a seasoned journalist, that may sound like a cliché. But through my Knight International Journalism Fellowship in Uganda, where independent media are very new, I’m trying to help journalists understand the need to dig deeper and find new sources, especially when it comes to health reporting. Recently, I got to see stunning results-- $130 million worth in fact. In 2008, a reporter I was working with, Kakaire Kirunda of the Daily Monitor newspaper, set out to write a story about the country’s hospital system.

  • Oct 82010

    Citizen Journalism in Uganda

    Cradling a dead baby in her arms, a girl weeps as she walks alone down a dirt road in eastern Uganda.

    About a year earlier, she learned she was pregnant. She turned to the baby’s father and his family for help and support, but they denied responsibility. Then, her own family spurned her. Though still a child herself, she had no choice but to leave her village and fend for herself. Six months later, she returned with the child, who had been born but subsequently died. She needed to find a place to bury him. But again the father, his family and her own family rejected her.

  • Jul 242010

    Mobile phone technology meets citizen journalism

    When my health-journalism fellowship began two and a half years ago, I dreamed about finding the “killer app” for mobile telephones that would revolutionize journalism in Africa.

    I didn’t make much headway, and the dream came to look like a wild fantasy. But today, 26-year old Lydia Namubiru is engineering the kind of leap forward I once dreamed would be my claim to fame.

    The diminutive Ugandan was working as a features writer for the New Vision newspaper when I arrived in her country at the beginning of 2008.

  • Jun 122010

    Good Reporting Can Produce Stunning Results

    Any reporter who relies on official sources will often miss the real story. That may sound like a cliche, but in countries that don’t have much experience with an independent press, it’s a lesson many reporters are just starting to learn. When they do, however, the results can be stunning.

    In 2008, reporter Kakaire A. Kirunda of the Daily Monitor newspaper set out to write a story about the country’s hospital system.

  • Mar 262009

    Use UHCA to learn - through experience

    Editors Note: Fellow Chris Conte work towards sustainable impact with UHCAIn late 2007, when I learned that I would be coming to Uganda to train and support health journalists here, I sought advice from Bobby Pestronk, the longest serving and one of the most highly respected local public health officials in the U.S. “The first thing you need to realize,” he told me, “is that nothing you do is going to make a difference.”

    He was talking mainly about health, where lasting improvements only come with time. But his bleak comment applies to journalism too.