Reporting Contest Winners Reveal the Hidden Toll on Early Childhood Development

The International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) has named reporters from India, Kenya, and Nigeria as winners of the 2016 Early Childhood Development Reporting Contest. Their stories shed light on the earliest years of life, especially the first 1,000 days. That is the critical period when children need proper nourishment, responsive care, learning opportunities and protection from disease, violence and stress. Good physical health, higher cognitive functioning and positive emotional relationships depend on these factors.

A panel of international judges selected the winners in three categories: best reporting, best use of data and best visuals. The awardees will spend 10 days in Washington, D.C., and New York this spring. They will share their experiences covering health and development and meet with global health experts and journalists who focus on early childhood issues. While in New York, the journalists also will attend the DART Center’s Institute on Early Childhood Experience and the Developing Brain.

The award winners:


Priyanka Vora

Best Use of Data: In a series of stories, Priyanka Vora explores how poverty and disease are a combined threat for tens of millions children and mothers in India. In “Encephalitis killed children in Malkangiri,” she writes about efforts to combat disease by first fighting hunger. Seven out of 10 children in the central Indian district are underweight, and one third suffer from acute malnutrition, she writes. In "Why Adivasi babies are dying in Dadra and Nagar”, she reports on cash incentives aimed at getting women to delay motherhood until age 20. Officials blame a 128 percent increase in newborn deaths since 2011 on the youth and poor nutrition of mothers. Vora is an award-winning health writer for 


Martins Ifijeh


Best Reporting: In his winning piece, highlights how malnutrition, which affects more than 11 million Nigerian children, endangers the mental and physical health of an entire generation. Ifijeh focuses on a mother whose 14-month-old daughter could not sit or stand and was the size of a three-month-old due to poor nutrition. The story shows how early intervention with a special diet helped the little girl avoid developmental problems. Ifijeh is a health reporter for ThisDay newspaper. 


Sharon Baranga headshot


Best Visuals: In her winning series, Kenyan reporter Sharon Barang’a shows how essential naps are in helping preschoolers learn and retain information. Another piece highlights the importance of play in early childhood brain development. In a third story, she reports about a community effort to feed and clothe orphaned children, some of whom suffer from disabilities. Barang’a is a reporter for Nation Media Group’s NTV.


ICFJ’s Early Childhood Development Reporting Contest kicks off a three-year program sponsored by the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (@CIFFChild) aimed at improving news coverage of childhood health issues. In the next phase, ICFJ will recruit 10 Early Childhood Development Reporting Fellows from Bangladesh, Brazil, India, Kenya, Nigeria and Tanzania. The Fellows will receive training, mentoring and financial support to produce stories on nutrition and early-childhood development. In the future, two more groups of fellows will be recruited with the goal of forming a global network of reporters covering these critically important issues. Learn more about the fellowships and how to apply here.

The contest winners shared how they developed their story ideas and discussed the health-and-development challenges children in their countries face during a live webinar. Read the highlights of the webinar and our contest winners' tips for covering early childhood development issues here.

Main image CC-licensed by Flickr via Erick (HASH) Hersman

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