By Musa Paul Feika
There have been low uptake of COVID-19 vaccinations in low income countries, which Sierra Leone as a nation is not an exception.
It is owing to misconception and misinformation spreading among Sierra Leoneans through the various social media fora about the vaccines.
To clear the misconception about COVID-19 vaccinations, Internews none profit media organisation in collaboration with other stakeholders, including Christian Health Association Sierra Leone (CHASL), the Inter Regious Council (IRCSL) held two days seminar with journalists, members of the Inter Regious Council and health workers to raise awareness campaign about the vaccines.
Internews, comprises journalists, who are focus in health related topics reporting with the aims and objectives to improve the country’s health system.
It headquarters is based in Carlofinia and they are operating in 100+ plus countries globally.
During the training, one of the health experts Martha B. Kanu at Christian Health Association Sierra Leone (CHASL) thanked and acknowledged the role of a media in awareness raising campaign, during the outbreak of Ebola and COVID-19 pandemic in Sierra Leone.
She urged media practitioners to continue thier good job to promote health related issues.
However, Madam Kanu said she is disappointed why many Sierra Leoneans journalists have not been reporting on health topics, rather, they are interested in reporting on politics.
She encouraged journalists to work with health workers to discourage misconception among Sierra Leoneans populace.
She further assured them to contact CHASL fo any information on health related issues.
Many a time she said journalists have not been given correct information health workers share with them.
To break the communication barrier between health workers and journalists, she said Christian Health Association Sierra Leone (CHASL) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) making their job easier for them.
She said CHASL have about 45 health facilities currently operating in 14 districts out the 16 districts in Sierra Leone.
Madam Kanu appealed to the government of Sierra Leone for support, emphasinsing that they are only get support from international organization Bread for the World (BFTW) based in Germany.
She said majority of their health workers are not on pay roll.
Responding, one of the journalists, james Jonea said journalists are not interested in health reporting because of the communication bridge between journalists and health workers.
He said he had been finding it difficult to have an interview with a health workers or for a health worker to grant his interview, adding that at any time he wanted to have an interview or interface with them, unless he contacted to the Public Relations (PR) wing at the Ministry of Health and Sanitation (HoHS).
He said most of the information as a health journalists he might need, the Public Relations Officer may not give him the correct information as compare to the health workers who are in the filed
He said a journalist he might want firsthand information which comes from health workers.
He said this has been discouraging many Sierra Leoneans journalists, not focus on health reporting.
Buttressing, Mr Jonea’s statement, Emma blake another health reporter said health experts who are living in overseas are always willing and ready to journalists, compare to health workers in Sierra Leone, emphasinsing that communication barrier is one of the uphill tasks frustrating many journalists not report on the country’s health system.
Emma pleaded with health workers to made themselves available to journalists for an interview at any given time.
One of the nurses working for the CHASL facilities Princess George, acknowledged the pivotal role of media practitioners to enhance the country’s health system and encouraged them to do more.
She said she had been engaging and sanitizing Juba Community in Freetown about uptake of COVID-19 vaccines.
She assured that approximately 70% the people have been vaccinated at Juba.
She said this was done by interface with them during foot matches, in schools and the various health centers.
Another health expert at Methodist Community Clinic situated at King Harma Road, in Freetown heaped praises on journalists for job well done on reporting on health issues.
He said Methodist Community Clinic situated at King Harma covers Tengbeh Town and its environ, noting for the past two years, no media practitioners have met him personally for an interview or for him to share some of the challenges he had been facing at the said health center.
He said they have been engaging with stakeholders in Tengebeh Town community about COVID-19 vaccinations, but the attitude of the people is discouraging people from taking the vaccines.
He said sometimes he is afraid of inviting journalists to cover their programme, programmes the public needed to know because he thought that journalists may request and demand for money them.
Sesay made clear that though CHASL, is the umbrella body working directly with media he said that doesn’t mean that he cannot interface with them when the need arises.
The role of an Inter Regious Council (IRCSL) in awareness raising campaign on health cannot be overemphasized as their congregations normally true and believed them.
Rev. Alie Saidu Conteh at Wesylean Church at Brookfield said he had been sensitizing and preaching about health to his congregations, adding that his church had been working with CHASL.
He said CHASL as an organization, have been very helpful and supportive to them.
He said the church had established and planted schools and hospitals, emphasinsing that all the hospitals they have constructed are working with CHSAL for the past years.
Rev. Kanu also commended the media for thier good jobs.
The workshop was climax with journalists, members of Inter Regious Council and health workers sharing some the challenges they face with one another.

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