The Global Health Security Call is supporting 15 journalistic projects being delivered by freelancers
As innovation during the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated, when there is public awareness, political will, and investment commensurate to the need, science can rapidly meet the moment and save lives. Despite this unprecedented pace of innovation, COVID-19 has also shown how the global health research and development ecosystem still falls short, leaving huge parts of the world behind.
In-depth media coverage of issues such as pandemic preparedness, vaccine development, and equitable access to health care is essential to keeping the topic of global health security on the public agenda and encouraging European governments to prioritise their funding commitments.
The 2021 Global Health Security Call is delivering grant funding and facilitating research opportunities to support in-depth journalistic analysis on the topic of global health security. Our team at the European Journalism Centre (EJC) is proud to support 15 grantees (individuals and teams of freelance journalists) that will publish solutions-focused, impactful stories across France, Germany, the UK, Italy, Sweden and beyond.
Global health security is the existence of strong and resilient public health systems that can prevent, detect, and respond to infectious disease threats, wherever they occur in the world.
The EJC is awarding these grants at a time when freelancers face funding constraints to report on relevant in-depth stories, and mainstream media organisations in Europe can lack the resources to fund extensive field research or ‘embedded’ journalism on big topics, challenges and solutions.
The awarded journalists will not only benefit from grant funding but also the opportunity to sustain working relationships with the opinion-forming media outlets that their stories will be published in. Furthermore, the Call will help the journalists broker constructive relationships with relevant external stakeholders and experts, and engage the public, key stakeholders and decision-makers about the topics being reported on.
Deforestation at the heart of the fight against malaria — Alexandra Combe and Nathalie Heydel.
Prey Lang, located in the Mekong Delta in Cambodia, was once one of the richest and most biodiverse forests in the world. While it has lost almost 60% of its area over the past 25 years, it has also become the epicentre of resistance to multiple antimalarial medicines.
The team will produce a documentary to reveal how the phenomenon of deforestation increases the incidence of malaria and mostly how scientists, activists and inhabitants are leading the fight against malaria, one of the most deadly infectious diseases.
Could Madagascar kill the plague?- Alice Bomboy
The island of Madagascar is the country with the most human cases of plague in the world, with nearly 70% of global cases. From bushfires to poor waste management and cultural traditions, this project will look at the social, political, environmental and cultural aspects that allow the disease to emerge regularly in Madagascar. Using a solutions lens, the project will report on the work being done by teams of French researchers from the Institut Pasteur and the Institut de Recherche et de Développement, with their Malagasy colleagues in developing diagnostic methods adapted to the Malagasy territory and making it possible to effectively cut transmission, a major key in the fight against the spread of the disease.
Diversity in genomic research: A battle for all — Carol Isoux
A vast majority of genomic data available to the scientific community is still based on individuals of European descent. This project will report on the work being done by a team of scientists from Thailand, Singapore and the Philippines in developing their own genome sequencing programmes to help make better vaccines and medicines for all.
“At a time where most newspapers do not finance in-depth stories anymore, EJC grants allow independent journalists like me to investigate the stories they believe in, making a huge difference,” — Carol Isoux
Amazon rainforest, ground zero of the next pandemic? — Solenn Cordroc’h
If deforestation continues to accelerate, the Amazon rainforest could become the ground zero of the next pandemic. Freelancer Solenn Cordroc’h will report on how scientists in Brazil are studying zoonoses, diseases transmissible between animals to humans, with the aim of preventing an epidemic.
A new malaria vaccine candidate, born from an African-European scientific partnership, has become the first to ever meet the WHO goal of 75% efficacy. This project will show the challenges and successes of the ongoing phase III trial, explore the road ahead for its licensing and production, and, moreover, show life without malaria for the vaccinated babies and mothers of Nanoro, the region in Burkina Faso that underwent the phase III trial.
Access for the aged in India: Health inequality amongst the most vulnerable in times of pandemic — Martina Merten
Vulnerable people, especially old women who live in elderly care homes, have been facing enormous challenges since the onset of the pandemic. This project will look at how the COVID-19 crisis has further widened their disparities in health, be it through unequal access to vaccination due to gender norms, lack of proper access to health services due to forced lockdowns, or may it be due to the lack of social contacts from outside their institution. The project also aims to report on possible solutions on how services for this group could be enhanced in India and on how capacity support could look like on the ground.
India and Bangladesh are on the frontlines of an emerging multidrug-resistant tuberculosis crisis. Reporting from both countries, the team will explore how the interplay of high population density, migration and inequitable access to treatment is fuelling the spread of MDR-TB — particularly in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The project will also highlight potential solutions, including some applications which allow reporting progress virtually, the removal of patents and programmes which promote WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene), access to clean water and more, in densely-populated migrant and refugee communities — and how to implement them.
The COVID-19 pandemic has made it painfully clear that the virus respects no borders — yet, the world over, as in India, refugees in crowded, closed camps in host countries have not had equal access to vaccines. In addition to the inherent injustice, these unvaccinated populations could become reservoirs for vaccine-resistant SARS-CoV-2 variants. This story will examine the experiences of diverse Indian borderland refugee communities — Rohingya, Pakistani Hindu and Afghan, with a view to inform global vaccine distribution policies.
Two faces of the fight against malaria — Marielba Nunez
This journalistic investigation will show how the current effort to control malaria in places where it has currently rebounded, such as in Venezuela, represents a race against time in the face of projections that indicate that, with the increases in temperature, the epidemic can move towards regions that are now free of this disease. The project will also report on the efforts that international scientific and public policy organisations and scientists from European laboratories, in collaboration with local scientists, are making to understand the phenomenon of the expansion in the largest hotspot of the disease and how they are fighting on the ground to contain the advance of the epidemic.
Liberia’s community health workers — Peter Yeung
Liberia, a country whose healthcare system has been hindered by civil war and extreme poverty, decided to invest in community healthcare workers in 2016. Freelancer Peter Yeung will report on how about 70% of Liberia’s 700,000 rural residents have access to care and the workers provide the foundation for a resilient primary care system designed to respond to disease outbreaks and provide lifesaving services.
This project will investigate the efforts that two African countries, Egypt and South Africa, are taking to start manufacturing COVID-19 vaccines — a first for the region, and a major stride towards improving regional access and achieving vaccine equity. The aim will be to explore how this production will take place, and whether this could put the continent on a new trajectory towards vaccine self-sufficiency and homegrown innovation — which could serve it far beyond this current health crisis, into future pandemics.
In Bangladesh, poor environmental legislation and enforcement are leading rivers to become a breeding ground for antimicrobial resistance. On the frontlines of this growing crisis are newborn babies. This multimedia investigation in Bangladesh will look into the emergence of superbugs and the impact that antimicrobial resistance is already having on neonatal and postpartum infections — an early warning sign of what antimicrobial resistance might look like if allowed to spread across the globe. The project will also examine some possible solutions, looking at WASH and sanitation measures, as well as new technology which can quickly identify types of bacteria for appropriate antibiotic treatment, as well as record data on drug-resistant infections.
The Health Game — Sara Perria
Since the 2015 migrant crisis, asylum seekers have created makeshift settlements along the Balkan route to reach Western Europe. This project will examine the global health implications of makeshift camps along the Eastern European border, crammed with migrants with no access to medical facilities. The project will also report on the possible health management solutions for these ‘ephemeral geographies’ during the COVID-19 pandemic by interviewing all entities involved in the management of health policies, from countries of origin, buffer States, the EU and the UK to the migrants who will be the central voice. The project will highlight responses like fiscal solutions, overcoming language barriers in the required documentation, increased resources to identify asylum seekers, greater collaboration between States or citizens’ involvement for a better health management and preparedness of these non-institutionalised camps.
One health — Sara Assarsson
The ‘One Health’ project, explores an innovative approach to prevent disease outbreaks and safeguard people’s health by considering animal, human and environmental health as one. 75 percent of new infectious diseases that threaten people have been shown to be zoonotic — that is, originating from animals or animal by-products. In West Africa, community event-based surveillance systems are effective mechanisms for early detection and response — the keys to control of disease outbreak events.
What clean water through clean technology can do— Ylva Bowes and Jenny Ingemarsson
Access to clean water and sanitation is one of our most urgent development issues. To have access to clean water in your home, or close by, can prevent the spread of diseases and enhance people’s health. On the other hand, lack of clean water threatens public health. According to UNICEF, 2.2 billion people around the world still lack access to safe drinking water. But what if we could stop diseases from spreading by securing access to clean water? Using a solutions-focused approach, the project will highlight how solar powered water ATMS in the Buikwe District in Uganda have given local villagers easy, daily, and affordable access to clean water. Before, many suffered from diseases because of the use of polluted water from Lake Victoria. Now, due to this new technique, the rate of sickness related to waterborne diseases has fallen by 7% during the first year, according to data from the Icelandic Embassy. While the number of diarrhoea cases among young children has been reduced by 65%.
The Call is being delivered by the EJC and is supported by a total of €100,000 of grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Since 2013, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has supported the EJC to award €6.5m to more than 200 journalism projects reporting on global challenges.
The EJC is an international non-profit headquartered in the Netherlands. We believe that resilient, inclusive and progressive journalism and media needs to be supported, strengthened and developed. Our mission is that every journalist and news organisation shall benefit from an EJC programme or initiative. Our purpose is to strengthen the resilience of European journalism by connecting journalists and media to new ideas, nurturing communities, making available a wide range of unique experiences, providing grants and skills development, and producing resources and training affordable or for free.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is a nonprofit fighting poverty, disease, and inequity around the world. Its mission is to create a world where every person has the opportunity to live a healthy, productive life. It partners with entrepreneurs, companies, and other organisations to create incentives that harness the power of private enterprise to create change for those who need it most.
Read here to learn more about our different grant programmes supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.