The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Monday concluded its four-day capacity building programme on health reporting during emergencies as part of ongoing efforts to “save lives.”
The sessions, which took place at the Homtel Hotel in Yola, the Adamawa State capital, were facilitated on behalf of the WHO by seasoned experts in media and medical fields, including Development Communication Consultant and former News Editor of The Guardian, Dr Marcel Mbamalu, Kwara State-based university don and Communication Consultant, Dr Onjefu Okidu, and his counterpart in Yola, Dr Bashir Abdullahi. The training had 40 senior journalists in Northeast Nigerian states of Adamawa and Yobe as participants and dwelt on more effective ways by which journalists could report COVID-19 and immunisation issues to elicit compliance from their audiences.
The sessions also focused on dispelling negative perceptions and controversies as well as providing enlightenment on the Astra-Zeneca vaccine and its benefits for the people of the region and Nigerians in general.
The training, which started on Friday March 26, 2021 ended late Monday evening amid strict compliance with stipulated COVID-19 preventive measures.
The participants were drawn from the electronic and print media and were equipped with knowledge to effectively inform their publics of the need to accept the vaccine.
In his opening remarks, a senior WHO official in Adamawa welcomed the participants to the training and asked them to concentrate fully on the presentations.
Another official of WHO said one of the objectives of the meeting was to acquaint journalists with all the necessary information reagarding COVID-19 and the Astra-Zenecca vaccine introduction to enhance acceptance and forestall negative stories.
He added that the idea was to see how journalists would be able to understand health perspectives and properly inform the public on preventive measures like social distancing, wearing of face masks, use of alcohol-based hand sanitisers and frequent washing of hands with soap under running water.
According to him, journalists are expected to positively change their style of reporting to ensure maximum turnout for vaccination and acceptance of the vaccine. He said the media should “be in the forefront of the campaign to save lives” by reporting accurately and in an informed manner.
Development Communication Consultant and former News Editor of The Guardian, Dr. Marcel Mbamalu, took the participants through the rudiments of “reporting to impact behaviors for positive change,” and led marathon sessions involving newspaper, television and radio journalists who shared practical experiences on reporting COVID-19 and health emergemcy related issues.
Dr Mbamalu, in two separate presentations, harped on key items on impactful multimedia and tech-driven journalism practice gave useful cross-platform tips on how journalists could cultivate news sources and effectively report to the delight of their editors and audiences during public health emergencies.
Another Development Communication Consultant, Dr Onjefu Okidu spoke on redefining the role of Mass Media during COVID-19 pandemic.
On his part, Dr. Abdullahi Saleh Bashir of the Modibbo Adama University, Yola lectured on strategies for reporting vaccine hesitancy and rejection: a guide for Journalists working in emergency states of Northeast Nigeria.
Jerry Shitta, health expert spoke on COVID-19 overview, Nigeria and daily trend of COVID-19 cases as at 28th March, 2021.
A participant, Mohammed Abubakar of the Independent Newspaper, thanked the Worls Health Organisation for the training. “We thank WHO for updating us with the latest trends on COVID-19 and efforts to curb the pandemic. We are updated and our capacity has been built by these seasoned facilitators,” he said.
“This will go a long way in enhancing our performance in discharging our social responsibility of informing, enlightening and educating the public on COVID-19 issues.”