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VOA Organizes Health Reporting Conference in DRC

Attendees hope for more such meetings

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Washington, D.C., November 13, 2009 - Journalists in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) tackled ways to improve health reporting at a Voice of America-sponsored (VOA) workshop and Town Hall that looked at malaria, HIV/AIDS, malnutrition and other issues.

A workshop in Goma, DRC, addressed strategies for journalists to use in reporting on health issues, which are frequently overlooked in a country in turmoil such as Congo.

Speakers included Dr. Dominique Baabo, chief medical inspector and the highest health authority in the North Kivu province; the World Health Organization's representative in Goma; and a local anti-malaria program coordinator.

After the workshop, Baabo promised to organize regular briefings for the media. The journalists also proposed to form a network to exchange information about health.

Twenty radio, television, and print journalists attended the workshop. Sessions dealt with the country's primary health threats: malaria, a leading cause of death in the DRC; the spread of HIV/AIDS as a result of the high number of rapes, and the increasing threats of malnutrition and the H1N1 virus (swine flu).

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"Journalists in the DRC mostly focus on politics, so there is little coverage of health-related topics in the local press," said VOA journalist Ferdinand Ferella, who helped organize the event. "Since health affects everyone's daily life, we hope to change that."

At a Town Hall meeting, speakers also addressed the polluted water of Lake Kivu. Without access to clean water, people in the region are susceptible to disease.

Attendees praised the sessions. "We are very thankful to VOA," one person said. "This is the first time a major international radio organizes such a meeting. We hope it will not be the last."

The Voice of America, which first went on the air in 1942, is a multimedia international broadcasting service funded by the U.S. government through the Broadcasting Board of Governors. VOA broadcasts approximately 1,500 hours of news, information, educational, and cultural programming every week to an estimated worldwide audience of more than 125 million people. Programs are produced in 45 languages.

For more information, call VOA Public Relations at (202) 203-4959, or e-mail