Tembisa-based OurHealth citizen journalist Marcia Zali walks away with the first Grow Great Journalism Award for her reporting childhood nutrition and stunting.

Zali’s two entry stories on one of South Africa’s most pressing challenges — poor nutrition which results in more than a quarter of children in the country under the age of five being stunted, in other words, their development and growth are impaired. Her first story, “Rooibos tea can’t replace baby formula, experts warn”, which focused on how struggling mothers often replace breast milk or formula for rooibos and water. This could result in malnutrition, such as in Tembisa, when 96 children were admitted to Tembisa Hospital for severe acute malnutrition last year.  

Her second story — “Mothers unknowingly feed babies sugar-filled purees” — took a dig dive into how ready-made fruit purees, which mothers think are healthy, are high in sugar and labels aren’t easy to understand.

Our Health citizen journalist and the inaugural Grow Great Journalism Award winner Marcia Zali and Health-e CEO Sibongile Nkosi.

Zali has been a citizen journalist at Health-e’since 2017, she is part of Our citizen journalism programme, OurHealth, started in 2012 with a handful of young community activists. “OurHealth continues to provide a model for a successful citizen journalism programme, showing how citizen journalism can effectively complement professional journalism. Our stories have brought into the public discourse some of the health challenges that South Africans in rural areas face,” OurHealth manager Masutane Modjadji says.

Seven years later, Health-e trained close to 80 people and the citizen journalists have been at the forefront of some of the biggest health stories in the countries such as the infamous Lusikisiki Village Clinic which Health-e broke in 2013. 

“Working on child nutrition has been an eye-opener for me, not just as a mother but also as a journalist. I’ve learned a lot about the importance of feeding children healthy nutritious food and how I can help create awareness with the work that I do,” Zali says. 

“The first time I was asked why I wanted to be a journalist? My response was that I wanted to be a voice for my community and to educate them about issues that are important for their wellbeing. This award is definitely an indication that my work is important and that I am making a positive contribution towards creating awareness on child nutrition.”

Health-e CEO Sibongile Nkosi says the award is a testament to the success and importance of citizen journalism and health reporting in South Africa.

“As Health-e celebrates 20 years of successful donor-funded health journalism, especially in a country as unequal as ours, our vision is to amplify the voices and stories that are under-reported.” – Health-e News

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