Bid to Improve on Population and Development Reporting

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By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK In a bid to improve reporting on population and development (P&D) issues, African journalists and traditional communicators have formed a regional population interface. The interface, called Network of African Communicators on Population and Development (NACPD), will enhance both information and the technical capacity of African media professionals in population and development. Although several countries and regions in Africa have formed journalist networks to improve the coverage of P&D issues, some of the networks are struggling and it was felt that journalists and other communicators needed a regional reference point. The management committee of the regional network consists of a general coordinator from the Democratic Republic of Congo, general treasurer from Ghana, regional coordinator for traditional communicators from Senegal, and has four committee members, namely, Malawi Mali, Uganda and Cameroon, representing south, east, west and central Africa. The venue for the secretariat was left vacant pending an assessment of infrastructure in different countries that will be conducted in due course. In a declaration issued at the end of the five-day regional conference on population and development in Kinshasa, DRC, the communicators expressed concern over population growth which is unmatched by economic development, with visible misery and poverty. They committed themselves to working together with families, communities, the youth, non-governmental and faith-based organizations, and governments to change and reinforce commitment in order to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and the objectives of the International Conference on Population and Development. “We urge governments and international organisations and the civil society to support the work of the communicators in their efforts to serve the larger population,” the declaration said. The declaration also urged governments to commit themselves to enhancing the quality of the lives of people on the continent, to work towards elimination of obstetric and traumatic fistula and also to eliminate all forms of discrimination and violence against women and children. Obstetric fistula is a devastating childbearing condition that mainly occurs in women who are young, poor and living in remote areas. Other problems that dog the continent’s women that need urgent attention include teenage pregnancies, forced and early marriages, abortions, female genital mutilation and gender-based violence. The modern communicators category, within which journalists fall, has been successful in disseminating information through radio, newspapers and television, but traditional communication is also widely used especially through theatre groups, traditional story-telling and song. The DRC’s Vice-President, Azarias Ruberwa Manywa, told the conference the media was the starting point in enabling access to information on population and development issues. “Nothing will replace the media,” he said, adding that journalists should help communities to exercise their rights such as the right to reproductive health, which would enable women to control their fertility. Manywa urged journalists to ensure that they denounced lack of good policies in their countries, which have led to allocation of resources to causes that don’t improve the lives of populations. About 100 people, who included journalists, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) communication focal points, traditional communicators, editors and media executives attended the conference. The conference was organised by the UNFPA and was a follow-up to a meeting of a technical committee of journalists, members of traditional communicators networks and UNFPA officials in May 2006.