The Association of Nigeria Health Journalists (ANHEJ) has called on journalists to increase their reportage on COVID-19, especially in the face of the second wave of the pandemic.
The association made the call in a communiqué jointly signed by its President, Mr Hassan Zaggi and General Secretary, Ms Gloria Essien after its three-day conference on COVID-19 reportage on Monday.
The organisation urged journalists to intensify educating Nigerians through their reports to understand their roles in curtailing the pandemic.
It noted that journalists should educate the public on the latest trends and the need to adhere to the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) protocols on COVID-19.
It said journalists should go beyond reporting Presidential Task Force (PTF) routine news conferences and do more of investigative reporting.
“Journalists should do more of investigations to ascertain the claims of government or the private sector, as well as give light to the challenges that the pandemic has brought on the livelihoods of other citizens.
“Also, members should not ignore reporting other health issues while concentrating on the COVID-19 pandemic.
“They should continue to report other health needs of Nigerians so that Nigeria does not lose the gains made in other areas of health while tackling the COVID-19 pandemic,” the communique said.
According to the association, health sector players are in agreement that the COVID-19 pandemic has weakened most health systems across the world, including Nigeria.
“Regardless of its huge negative impact on health systems across the globe, however, the COVID-19 pandemic brought some positives.
“It provided an opportunity for countries to reassess their health systems and device ways of improving the weak areas.
“Nigeria cannot take the back seat in this regard and must begin immediately to tap into the gains that the pandemic presented to the world.
“These opportunities exist both in health systems structure (monitoring, service delivery) and research development”.
However, ANHEJ believed that the media did its best in reporting the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It also believes that for the health sector to be strong enough to meet the health needs of all Nigerians at any critical moment, the government must be deliberate in funding the health sector”.
ANHEJ, therefore, called on the government to, following the second wave of the COVID-19, build on the experiences gained in handling the first wave and ensure that the lives of Nigerians are protected.
“It expressed its commitment to support the government, international partners and other stakeholders in the health sector to ensure that Nigerians get the information they need as regards the COVID-19 and other emerging diseases in the country”.
It observed that the health care system in Nigeria had great challenges from the point of policy design, funding and in service delivery.
“Without strategic policy design, conscious committed effort to funding the health sector, service delivery will always be poor.
“The culmination of the above-mentioned factors of health sector development, which have been seen to be badly handled in Nigeria, are responsible for the poor health indices.
“These factors are responsible for the poor health indices reflected each time the National Demographic Health Survey (NDHS) is carried out in the country.
“These are maternal, new born and infant mortality figures in Nigeria, though showing slight improvement in recent surveys, are still a far cry from the desirable.
“According to WHO report, Nigeria accounted for 19 per cent of global maternal deaths between 1990 and 2015, which meant that, at least, 800 women in every 100,000 died during childbirth”.
The association, however, noted that several steps were taken by government to address issues around maternal and infant mortalities, which included the mandatory one-year Midwifery Service Scheme (MSS).
“But the status of that laudable scheme as at today cannot be said to have achieved the desired results; several challenges ranging from funding to insecurity have brought the scheme to its knees”.
The officials further urged health journalists to report issues around Reproductive Health, noting that reports should also reflect the family planning needs of women and girls within reproductive age. (NAN)