Millions of Africans facing famine and starvation led Voice of America to report first-hand from the areas most affected, creating the wide-ranging multimedia project, "Hunger Across Africa". For their work on this project, VOA Director Amanda Bennett presented the 2017 Cowan Award for Humanitarian Reporting to VOA journalists Abdulaziz Osman, Nicolas Pinault, and Salem Solomon in an August 29 ceremony at VOA headquarters.
"This was an amazing team effort," VOA Director Bennett said. "More than 80 original reports, dozens of videos, radio broadcasts, and panel discussions have been produced on numerous platforms along with many additional reports in 15 languages within the Africa Division."
VOA Somali Television Executive Producer Abdulaziz Osman and VOA French to Africa Internet Managing Editor Nicolas Pinault travelled to conflict-ridden regions of Africa to assess the hunger crisis firsthand. Osman filed multimedia reports from the breakaway region of Somaliland and from Somalia, where terrorist attacks by al-Shabaab undermine food security. Pinault reported first-hand from Chad and from Niger in areas vulnerable to cross-border attacks by the Nigerian Islamic insurgent group Boko Haram.
VOA Africa Division writer Salem Solomon curated all VOA coverage of the crisis on a website, presenting original reporting from correspondents and from freelance journalists on radio, on television, and online. Interactive features give individual crisis assessments of factors including armed conflict, disease, humanitarian relief efforts, drought, and climate change.
The Cowan Award was established in 1995 in honor of Louis and Geoffrey Cowan, the second and 22nd VOA directors, and has been presented to VOA journalists for distinguished humanitarian reporting for more than 20 years. Alan Heil, former VOA Deputy Director (1996-98) and Holly Cowan Shulman, daughter of the late Louis Cowan, are co-trustees of the fund.