Malaria – does the media matter?

In Nigeria, “Professor Oladele Akogun, has called on media organisations in the country to help in the implementation of the Roll-Back malaria programme,” according to This Day newspaper.  The news has different audiences, and when policy makers are targeted, we are engaging in what is known as media advocacy.

bill-on-free-medical-services-smjpg.jpgSpecifically, Prof. Akogun explains that, “the media remains the voice of the governed to the governor.”  Furthermore, “He said it was important that the media to play its role by asking policy makers questions that border on good health, roads and other issues affecting citizens’ welfare.”Prof. Akogun was focusing on Taraba State in Nigeria, and in fact it is often at the sub-national level – states, provinces, districts – where media advocacy is most needed so that national policies are actually implemented.

As an example. Jhpiego, an NGO affiliated with the Johns Hopkins University, has been working in Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria for the past three years promoting improved services to prevent malaria in pregnancy (MIP).  Jhpiego has partnered with the State’s Newspaper, the Pioneer, to draw attention of policy makers to MIP issues.

At the local government level, Jhpiego “called on local government chairmen to be more committed in the supply of routine drugs supply, provision of ante-natal cards in the primary health centres to enhance free healthcare services offered pregnant women and children under five years by the Akwa Ibom state government.”

Jhpiego also used, A conference to commemorate the 2009 World Malaria Day in Eket to “call on Akwa Ibom government to fast track a bill on free ante-natal services to all pregnant women/children under five years,” as reported in the Pioneer.  Fees for antenatal care keep women away and deny them access to MIP preventive services.

In Ghana the VOICES malaria advocacy project has been using the electronic media as follows:

  • The development of TV Spots targeting Ghanaian leaders and health providers, encouraging them to use their power to fight malaria
  • Ongoing collaboration with electronic and print media to support the use of AS + AQ as a first-line treatment for uncomplicated malaria
  • 4 TV Spots/documentaries broadcast on national TV for 3 months
  • 4 Radio Spots broadcast on community/district–based radio stations.
  • Vocal leaders appear on 6 mass media programs and 8 district level events

Examples of the TV documentaries can be viewed on the Ghana page of the VOICES website. This TV programs and media print media coverage in Nigeria should encourage malaria advocacy groups in other countries to develop their own media efforts to ensure that malaria control services reach those in need.

It is not that countries lack policies to eliminate malaria. What is often lacking is the political will, especially as sub-national and district level to implement those policies.

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