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NMG journalist wins global health award

Nation Media Group’s Elizabeth Merab is this year’s recipient of the prestigious Global Universal Health Coverage award for her efforts in health journalism in Africa.

Merab was awarded alongside World Health Organisation (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who, according to the Africa Health Agenda International Conference (AHAIC) 2021, showed exemplary global health leadership.

Others awarded include Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the regional director of WHO-Africa, and Dr. John Nkengasong, director of the Africa CDC, who were jointly awarded the Africa Health Leadership on Covid-19 Award.

“Your investigative undertakings on reporting major health issues have led to significant changes in health policies in Kenya and that is a true example of journalism with an impact, your tireless effort to ensure access to the right information, and your consistent call to governments to prioritize health issues is a stellar example of journalism with a positive impact,” the AHAIC 2021 coordinating committee and Amref told the journalist.

In 2018, Ms Merab investigated and brought to light the story of a brain surgery mix-up, where doctors operated on the wrong patient at the Kenyatta National Hospital. It has gone on record as the biggest blunder in a hospital in Kenya.

The story has led to a lot of changes at the national referral hospital.

She went on to investigate opioid addiction in the country, which exposed how Kenyans were addicted to prescription medications. Her revelations saw the Pharmacy and Poisons Board (PPB) run a nationwide crackdown on pharmacies and brought about a change in policy.

From telling stories of the plight of patients and medical negligence in Kenya, to stories on the longest doctors’ strike in 2017, to those that have highlighted the loopholes in Kenya’s healthcare system, the list of impactful stories by Merab is endless.

“I am honoured to be receiving such an important global award. I am grateful for the recognition I have received for my work because I am sure that the other nominees for this award were capable of winning,” said Ms Merab, while accepting the award.

Mr Stephen Gitagama, the chief executive officer of the Nation Media Group said Ms Merab’s award was evidence that the Nation produces high-quality, competitive stories of impact.

“This is a significant recognition, I am very proud of Ms Elizabeth Merab, considering the fact that she started with us as an intern in 2014. I wish her the very best,” he said.

Mr Gitagama praised Kenyan journalists for what he termed as great efforts towards Covid-19 sensitisation and urging the country not to drop the ball on Ministry of Health guidelines.

He said NMG will continue to provide opportunities, exposure, and training to all its journalists.

To the multimedia health and science reporter, this moment means that the efforts African journalists put in health reporting are being recognised for the first time in a big way. She is humbled that her name is placed alongside great personalities in healthcare on the continent.