Knight International Journalism Fellowships

Nigeria: Launch New Pan-African Health Journalists' Network

In Nigeria, a country with staggering rates of preventable diseases, Declan Okpalaeke is creating a newspaper and online health section to hold Nigerian officials accountable for improving policies.

Knight Health Journalism Fellow Declan Okpalaeke is an award-winning health and environmental journalist who is leading the launch of Africa's first Pan-African health journalists’ organization, the African Health Journalists Association. The new continent-wide organization offers training, resources, networking opportunities and assistance for cross-border reporting.

In the first part of his fellowship, Okpalaeke launched a four-page, weekly health section at This Day, one of Nigeria’s most popular newspapers. The newspaper now regularly features stories on issues ranging from polio and tuberculosis to cancer, epilepsy and stroke in its print and online editions. The section includes health columns written by prominent doctors that are sparking online discussions between readers asking health questions and doctors from Nigeria and around the world offering responses.

In its first two months, the health section featured more than 50 stories and columns on critical health issues and policies. The section was created despite severe challenges including limited resources and deadly attacks on This Day’s offices by a Muslim terrorist group, Boko Haram. The newspaper has continued to publish, despite the destruction of its Abuja building.

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