News Contest Launched to Engage Citizens on Health

By: Kendall McCabe | 03/27/2014

Nigerian journalists and media organizations can win cash, mentoring and in-house technical assistance through a new story competition aimed at amplifying citizen voices on vital health issues.

Winners of the Hala Nigeria Story Challenge will receive prizes up to $1,000 and a chance to attend an exclusive EditorsLab with a faculty of international experts. The winners’ media organizations will receive prestigious CodeforNigeria Innovation Fellows, technologists who will be embedded in their newsrooms for six weeks to build web and mobile applications for audience engagement. They will also train staff on how to use data in news stories and for revenue-generating services.

The contest, launched at a meeting of top editors in Lagos, is open to professional journalists; teams of journalists, technologists and designers; citizen journalists; bloggers; and news organizations. Hala Nigeria (“Speak Out, Nigeria”) is led by five ICFJ Knight International Journalism Fellows. This program is designed to increase public engagement and amplify citizens’ voices on critical health issues facing the country.

“This contest has the potential to have a major impact on people’s health,” said ICFJ Knight Fellow Declan Okpalaeke, head of the African Health Journalists Association and a key member of Hala Nigeria team. “When journalists report what directly touches the people and give them a chance to speak out, they provide an important service.”

“The Hala Nigeria project will provide a global roadmap for engaging citizens on health issues,” said ICFJ President Joyce Barnathan. “We believe it will ultimately lead to a better informed and healthier society.”

The story contest will reward compelling stories that use traditional or digital tools to engage citizens on health topics that matter to them. It will unfold in two phases. In the first phase, applicants will be invited to submit creative story ideas with the potential for citizen engagement. The best entries will be chosen as finalists. They will receive assistance in developing their ideas and using new tools to engage the public. Completed projects will be submitted to an international panel of respected media leaders and health experts, who will choose the winners.

The deadline for story ideas is April 11, and the deadline for completed projects is June 5.

Entries may focus on any important health topic, including diseases, prevention, treatments, health services and facilities, health policies, programs, challenges or new technologies. A public survey released by Hala Nigeria and conducted by NOIPolls found that Nigerians’ top health concerns include malaria, antenatal care, typhoid, hypertension, diabetes, nutrition and accessibility of health care services. Malaria was the No. 1 concern for 77 percent of those polled.

Hala Nigeria [“Speak Out, Nigeria”] is a project of the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) in collaboration with international and Nigerian partners, including the African Health Journalists Association, the CodeforNigeria data initiative, the African Media Initiative, Development Communications Network, HacksHackers-Lagos and the Society for Family Health. The project aims to improve coverage of health matters, increase public engagement on health issues and amplify citizens’ voices in health news. Visit us at

Hala Nigeria is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

About the Partners:

The International Center for Journalists is a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., that advances quality media worldwide. We believe that responsible journalism empowers citizens and holds governments accountable.

African Health Journalists Association (AHJA, a Pan-African network of journalists who cover health problems, policies and services. AHJA provides resources and training opportunities for health journalists across the continent.

CodeforNigeria, an open data initiative that connects government, media and civil society to ensure greater transparency and accountability through data transparency and openness to the public.

Hacks/Hackers Lagos, a group of journalists and technologists who build and adapt tools that newsrooms can use to increase transparency and accountability. It offers data boot camps and hackathons.

The African Media Initiative is the only panAfrican organization of media owners and operators. It seeks to strengthen the continent’s private and independent media sector and a necessary ingredient of democratic governance as well as economic and human development. Its flagship program is the annual African Media Leaders Forum.

Society for Family Health is one of Nigeria’s largest non-governmental organisations. SFH’s mission is to empower Nigerians, particularly the poor and vulnerable to lead healthier lives.

Development Communications Network (DevComs) is a media development, capacity building non-government organization coordinated by experienced development journalists. It is based in Lagos, Nigeria.

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