Innovation Journalism Takes Polio to the Headlines

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UNICEF & Ministry of Health holds the first National Health Media Awards to acknowledge media's leading role in achieving success in national health campaigns.

UNICEF Pakistan in joint collaboration with the Ministry of Health, Government of Pakistan held the first National Health Media Awards to applaud those media initiatives, which have strongly supported the health campaigns launched nationwide. The applauded media initiatives have not only promoted the campaigns but also resulted in remarkable outreach and tangible outcome.

Mr. Amir Jahangir, Chief Executive Officer of SAMAA TV received a special award for Innovations in Health Journalism. Mr. Jahangir is known for being a media person carrying out health related initiatives to improve the overall health indicators situation in Pakistan; the special award was presented for his contribution and efforts towards the eradication of polio across Pakistan.

SAMAA TV, in joint collaboration with, UNICEF Pakistan and the Ministry of Health was the first media channel in Pakistan to establish a Polio Control Cell aimed at acting as an information bridge between the citizens and the polio control authorities. The cell, first of its kind provided instant information on the initiative to callers in the length and breadth of the country besides performing the vital task of identifying missed areas and children. Since its establishment in October 2008, more than 35,000 children have been ensured the vaccination against the polio virus, who otherwise would have been included as the missed targets during the campaigns.

Speaking on the occasion Federal Minister for Health Mir Aijaz Hussain Jakhrani said "The government is committed to protecting the children of Pakistan from the scourge of polio. We need to reach out to every eligible child, which itself is a huge task and can only be accomplished with the collaboration of all stakeholders including the media". Mr. Jakhrani applauded the media for playing a proactive role in waging a war against disease and disability. He especially hailed SAMAA TV efforts for leading from the front in this initiative.

The Polio Control Cell has also received high acknowledgement at the international forums, where Mr. Bill Gates, Co-chair and Trustee of the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation and the Director General World Health Organization, Dr. M. Chan has applauded the SAMAA model as "THE PAKISTAN MODEL" and called it a role model to be replicated in other epidemic developing countries. The model has also been commended at the Stanford University as one of the prime Innovation Journalism case studies for Public-Private Partnership initiative for media and healthcare delivery mechanisms at the 6th Innovation Journalism Conference held in May 2009.

Speaking on the occasion Mr. Amir Jahangir, said that "this award gives a great sense of achievement, however our achievement lies more in the fact that we were among the key players in ensuring a healthier Pakistan. No doubt that given the popularity, coverage and effectiveness of SAMAA News, our support in bringing innovation to the health delivery mechanisms in Pakistan, however, this is just the beginning, we need to continue the same commitment and finish what we set out to achieve - a polio free future for our coming generations."

According to WHO, Afghanistan, India, Nigeria and Pakistan, which together accounted for 1,514 polio cases in 2008, or 91 per cent of all cases. The number of polio cases reported annually has decreased by more than 99 per cent - from 350,000 in 1988 to 1,660 cases in 2008. Pakistan has 118 polio cases during 2008, which is an increase of more than 86 cases since 2007.

Speaking at the award ceremony, Mr. Jahangir urged all the stakeholders to come forward and jointly work for a better and healthier Pakistan. Mr. Jahangir dedicated the Award to the entire SAMAA TV team for making the campaign a success.

Mr. Jahangir also emphasized that Pakistan needs to focus more on improving its Health indicators. Pakistan ranks 116th out of the 134 economies on the Global Competitiveness Index of the World Economic Forum. "The World Economic Forum at Davos ranks the competitiveness of more than 134 nations globally on an annual basis.

In April 2009, the VINNOVA-Stanford Research Center of Innovation Journalism honored Mr. Amir Jahangir as the Program Advisor to the Research Center on Global Media Development and Journalism. Mr. Jahangir has also played a crucial role in improving health reporting from Pakistan in this regard as well.

SAMAA TV is one of Pakistan's leading private satellite television channels, which takes pride in its fair, factual and independent news coverage through its on-the-hour bulletins, breaking stories, incisive political analysis and current affairs programs. The channel has also made a niche for itself through its programs on women and youth issues besides infotainment and sports. SAMAA TV, launched in December 2007 has network of district correspondents and five (5) bureaus across Pakistan along with international stringers in the Middle East, Europe and North America.


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