African Water Journalists Network launched

A group of international journalists have collaborated to form an online resource dedicated to increasing and improving reporting on water and water related issues in Africa.

The African Water Journalists Network was launched during a United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) celebration of World Water Day. Initiated by Quest Ltd, a company of journalists focused on development issues, and the Water Foundation, the Network will work in cooperation with a cluster of UN specialised agencies working on water issues in Africa.

Quest CEO James M. Dorsey told the audience that over 1,000 journalists had been invited to join the network.

“Most African journalists are poorly paid and poorly trained. They have few resources and are often badly treated and viewed as a tool to be manipulated. Writing a penetrating story is risky in Africa. The reward could be the sack or worse, physical punishment. With the launch of the Africa Water Journalist Network, Quest and the Water Foundation hope to contribute to changing this situation,” he said.

Speaking via video message to the meeting, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said: “We need to increase water efficiency, especially in agriculture. We need to free women and girls from the daily chore of hauling water, often over great distances. We must involve them in decision making on water management. We need to make sanitation a priority. This is where progress is lagging most.”

These views were echoed by UNECA Deputy Executive Secretary Josephine Ouedraogo, who also highlighted the injustice of poorer communities having to pay more for water than more affluent areas:

“Today, poor people in peri-urban communities in Africa pay 3 to 10 times more for water than people in urban centres who have access to safe piped water, while millions of our children die needlessly from water-borne diseases which have been eradicated elsewhere.”

The network is intended to supply journalists with better information, help them get access to sources and provide them with an outlet for their talent. In addition it will support those journalists who are threatened or abused.

“We all know the issues of water, that without access to clean water and sanitation a developing country cannot develop. That it is uneconomic for children and women to wait for hours every day to fill up jugs of water. That it’s unhealthy. That up to 80% of killer diseases are preventable. But, how do people know how to prevent these diseases if nobody tells them? This is where the media – newspapers, radio and television – have a key role to play,” Mr Dorsey said. “And, that is where the African Water Journalist Network will make its mark.”

By David Hopkins

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