Media plays crucial role in highlighting humanitarian crises, MSF says

A section of Media covering a press conference at the Council of Governors (COG) in Nairobi on January 5th 2022. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

The media has been hailed as a key partner in responding to humanitarian crises in Kenya and beyond.

According to Rolland Keya, general director, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) journalists deserve accolades since they are always among the first responders to disasters, calamities and emergencies.

Keya spoke in Nairobi yesterday after his organisation partnered with Kenya Editors Guild to enhance humanitarian journalism.

“This partnership has come a long way and our concern now is to address major issues that acts as barriers to delivery of important information on humanitarian crisis to the public,” he said.

The corporation sought to assess and bridge the gap that exists in media reporting of humanitarian crisis.

MSF is an international medical humanitarian organisation established half a century ago. In Kenya and Eastern Africa region, the organisation undertakes access to medicine campaigns for healthcare and emergency services.

Keya said their collaboration with journalists will provide a platform for, among other benefits, access to media databases. Such information, according to the MSF boss, is essential widening their scope of understanding.

“Likewise, some of the information and data we obtain from the media are crucial in assessing areas of concerns, priority and urgency,” he added.

MSF Eastern Africa director of communication Sophie Mendez said their previous collaboration with the media has had direct impact on their operations.

She cited the immense financial support that MSF received from donors after the media reported on the dilapidated health situation in Dagahaley refugee camp in Garissa County.

Dagahaley experienced high influx of refugees fleeing drought and human conflict in Somalia last year.

“We always get commendable quick response on humanitarian aid in terms of material and human support when we contact the media who informs the public of wanting situations in affected areas,” stated Mendez.

KEG chief executive officer Rosalia Omungo highlighted some of the dangers journalists are exposed to while reporting on humanitarian disasters especially in hostile areas.

“Reporting armed conflict is a dangerous venture. Journalists risk being wounded, killed, detained or kidnapped in armed conflict areas,” said Omungo.

She added that safety concerns remain a great challenge to humanitarian journalism as she urged the players to invest in safety and security trainings of journalists.

Omungo further underscored the need for journalists to operate impartially as biased reporting can flare up already bad situations.