Journalists from Kenya, India, Nigeria Take Top Prizes for Reporting on Malnutrition

By: ICFJ | 10/20/2021

Leon Lidigu, a Kenyan journalist who revealed the struggles of a vulnerable community faced with malnutrition in school children, has been selected as the first-place winner of the 2021 Global Nutrition and Food Security Reporting Contest.

Lidigu’s story, The Cost of Malnutrition, focused on children in the Kibera slum of Nairobi who often depend on school for their only meal of the day, and the lifelong challenges that result when young children are malnourished or undernourished. The multimedia feature ran in the popular Nation newspaper.

“Lidigu’s story is an excellent piece of explanatory and solutions-oriented journalism,” said Roger Thurow, a distinguished journalist and expert on global nutrition who served on the panel of judges. “The narrative and graphics combine to form a compelling exploration of the cost of malnutrition for individuals, families, communities, and a country, and summons an urgency to prioritize improving nutrition for all.”

Srishti Jaswal of India took second place for her exposé of a national food distribution system that left out millions of needy families, while Ojoma Akor of Nigeria came in third for her story about a rural community’s efforts to stave off hunger in orphans.

The award is given by the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) in partnership with the Eleanor Crook Foundation, a U.S.-based philanthropy solely dedicated to the fight against malnutrition. It recognizes powerful and forward-looking storytelling on the impacts of malnutrition on childhood development and on proven interventions, such as breastfeeding and life-saving food supplements. 

"Congratulations to the winners of the Nutrition and Food Security Reporting Contest. The dynamic reporting from each of the participants serves as an important reminder of the incredible power of storytelling," said Will Moore, CEO of the Eleanor Crook Foundation. "They represent the thousands of courageous journalists the world over who are working every day to bring increased attention to underreported issues, including the worsening global malnutrition crisis. These stories are key to ensuring vulnerable communities have access to lifesaving care."

The story contest was launched amid the largest spike in global hunger in 20 years, and experts say the COVID-19 pandemic could lead to a 50 percent rise in malnutrition. Moore added that the pandemic, combined with the effects of climate change, longer and lasting conflicts, and years of economic stagnation, meant that more than a third of the world’s population lack access to adequate food.

The story contest carries a $2,500 cash prize for first place, $1,500 for second place and $500 for third place.

Jaswal’s second-place entry was a disturbing examination of India’s food distribution system and the millions of needy families who were left out because the system was based on a 10-year-old census that didn’t count them. Jaswal follows the distressing journey  of families grappling with malnutrition during the pandemic, and the bitter irony that the pandemic delayed a new census that could include them and pave the way to life-saving provisions. Jaswal’s story was published by Al Jazeera.

Akor was awarded third place for her story in the Daily Trust newspaper, which used graphics, photos and videos to tell how a community in northern Nigeria helped more than 30 families caring for orphans and vulnerable children stave off hunger. She reported how the Dukpa community donated land for communal farming of crops to serve vulnerable children, including those who had lost parents to violence in the conflict-plagued region.

The winners were chosen by a distinguished panel of judges, including:

  • Luis Botello, ICFJ Deputy Vice President of New Initiatives and Impact


  • Madeline Dickson, Partnerships and Campaigns Officer for the Eleanor Crook Foundation


  • Catherine Gicheru, veteran journalist, ICFJ Knight Fellow and founder of the Africa Women Journalism Project


  • Mikhael Simmonds, Mid-Atlantic Manager and Multimedia Lead, Solutions Journalism Network


  • Roger Thurow, Senior Fellow at the Chicago Institute on Global Affairs, and scholar-in-residence at the Hunger Solutions Institute at Auburn University.

The storytelling contest is part of a broader Global Nutrition and Food Security Reporting Fellowship Program, which offers training and resources to help journalists in the U.S. and around the world gain a better understanding of COVID-19’s impacts on global hunger, malnutrition, and food security as well as opportunities to increase resilience for the most vulnerable populations in a post-pandemic world. Malnutrition is the leading cause of childhood deaths in the world today.

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