Winners Announced in Hala Nigeria Health Story Contest

Hala Nigeria Logo

Lagos, Nigeria – A television journalist who focused on the threat of Ebola and the possibility of it entering Nigeria through airports and borders was named winner of the Hala Nigeria story contest, a program to highlight key health issues and amplify citizen voices.

The top winner is Vivienne Irikefe of TV Continental in Lagos, who concentrated on two Ebola-related issues – the tradition of eating bush meats that could be infected with Ebola and the steps being taken by authorities to prevent Ebola from entering Nigeria from West African countries plagued with the disease.

Second place went to Segun Adeoye of The Punch newspaper for stories about malaria and the problems caused when people self-medicate rather than seeing a health professional. Two entries tied for third place – Alex Abutu and Vanessa Offiong of Abuja-based Daily Trust, shared the prize with Seun Akioye of The Nation. The Daily Trust journalists focused on maternal health and issues of child delivery, while the Nation story focused on emergency services in the Lagos area.

A team of six citizen journalists based in the Niger Delta also were recognized for a story they entered about malaria self-medication, which was produced in collaboration with the Punch. Members of the group, which won first prize in the citizen journalist category of the contest, are Innocent Okoh, Letem Noble Bere, Oluwabunmi Owolabi, Miriam Efom, Nornubari Kote, and Esther Ndeesor.

Second prize in the citizen journalist category went to a team who focused on maternal health, while third prize went to a team who produced a story about water and sanitation issues in the Niger Delta.

The story contest was part of HALA Nigeria, a project of the International Center for Journalists designed to increase public engagement and amplify citizens’ voices on critical health issues facing the country. The project was led by five ICFJ Knight International Journalism Fellows.

More than 130 story proposals from professional and citizen journalists across the country.

Story ideas focused on a wide range of issues – such as malaria drugs and self-medication, maternal health, traditional birth attendants, emergency services, infectious diseases, poor sanitation, medical negligence, child nutrition.

The field was narrowed to 16 professional journalists and 17 citizen journalists, all part of the Niger Delta network built by ICFJ Knight Fellow Tunde Akpeji. The finalists attended boot camps and story camps to hone their ideas, and worked with a team of skilled mentors for several months.

The winners were chosen by an international judging panel of respected professionals:

  • Elisa Tinsley, ICFJ deputy vice president and former director of ICFJ’s Knight International Journalism Fellowships;
  • Doyin Odubanjo, a public health specialist and executive secretary of the Nigerian Academy of Science;
  • Joachim Buwembo, Ugandan editor and columnist for the East African, based in Kampala. He previously served as a Knight Fellow in Tanzania;
  • Antigone Barton, former Knight Fellow in Zambia and currently editor of the ScienceSpeaks blog, a project of the Center for Global Health Policy in Washington, DC; and,
  • Simon Kolawole, publisher of The Cable, an online newspaper in Nigeria, and former editor of ThisDay.

In a videotaped address, Tinsley congratulated the winners for their hard work.

Individual winners of the Hala Nigeria Story Challenge received prizes up to $1,000. Four winning media organizations received prestigious CodeforNigeria Innovation Fellows, technologists who will be embedded in their newsrooms for two months to build web and mobile applications for audience engagement. They will also train staff on how to use data in news stories and for revenue-generating services.

“The Hala Nigeria project will provide a global roadmap for engaging citizens on health issues,” said ICFJ President Joyce Barnathan. “We believe it will ultimately lead to a better informed and healthier society.”

HALA Nigeria [which means “Speak Out, Nigeria”] was carried out in collaboration with international and Nigerian partners, including the African Health Journalists Association, the CodeforNigeria data initiative, the African Media Initiative, Development Communications Network, HacksHackers-Lagos and the Society for Family Health.  The project aims to improve coverage of health matters, increase public engagement on health issues and amplify citizens’ voices in health news.

Hala Nigeria is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.



About the partners:

The International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) is a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., that advances quality media worldwide.  We believe that responsible journalism empowers citizens and holds governments accountable. Visit us at

African Health Journalists Association (AHJA), a Pan-African network of journalists who cover health problems, policies and services. AHJA provides resources and training opportunities for health journalists across the continent.

CodeforNigeria, an open data initiative that connects government, media and civil society to ensure greater transparency and accountability through data transparency and openness to the public.

Hacks/Hackers Lagos, a group of journalists and technologists who build and adapt tools that newsrooms can use to increase transparency and accountability. It offers data boot camps and hackathons.

The African Media Initiative is the only panAfrican organization of media owners and operators. It seeks to strengthen the continent’s private and independent media sector and a necessary ingredient of democratic governance as well as economic and human development. Its flagship program is the annual African Media Leaders Forum.

Society for Family Health is one of Nigeria’s largest non-governmental organisations. SFH’s mission is to empower Nigerians, particularly the poor and vulnerable to lead healthier lives.

Development Communications Network (DevComs) is a media development, capacity building non-government organization coordinated by experienced development journalists. It is based in Lagos, Nigeria.