The winner of the ONE Africa Award 2008 was announced in Accra yesterday. It was a very special occasion for ONE and we were delighted that ONE’s Policy Advisory Board member, Mr. K.Y. Amoako from Ghana agreed to make the presentation. In a surprising move, ONE decided to give the award to an organization that engages the media in efforts to stop disease and save lives.
The winner, Development Communications (DEVCOMS) Network, is a Nigerian media training and mentoring group that works with the media to improve public health. Based in the sprawling metropolis of Lagos, DEVCOMS trains and mentors journalists in public health issues and science journalism. While media may not seem an obvious player in achieving the MDGs, Akin Jimoh, DEVCOMS’ Programme Director, says information is critical for people to make well-informed decisions, especially about their health. His organization is also actively involved in advocacy efforts for free health care in Nigeria and has helped to improve both the quality and quantity of health journalism across the country.
DEVCOMS’ success is based on its long term approach to media relationships and development. Rather than running one-off training sessions, it collaborates closely with NGOs working on health issues to provide ongoing mentoring and immersion training for reporters through internships.
“We believe the silent sighs of our women and children have to stop” he said, dedicating the ONE Africa Award to the 140 women who die in Nigeria every day “giving life” and to the more than 300 children under the age of five who die every day from diarrhea, malaria and other preventable, treatable diseases. He also urged civil society organizations to help any journalist who knocks on their door. “We are all one in this” he said “ and this award reminds us of the work we have to do.”
ONE created this award to recognize the role of African individuals and organizations in achieving the MDGs. ONE plans to announce this award annually in honor of those who inspire and lead the fight against the injustice of extreme poverty.
“Information is power” said Mr Amoako when he announced DEVCOMS as the winner, “for citizens, for civil society and for governments. We will all do a better job of fighting poverty with better information and debate. DEVCOMS makes that critical link between the practical daily work of improving public health services, with citizens, through the media.”
Check back later for photos and video from the ceremony.