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Nutrition and the Missing Headlines

Journalists love headlines. Especially print journalists. They go to great lengths to make headlines intriguing and captivating. Sometimes they make headlines very sensational. There are editors who think that the more sensational a headline, the better.

And what is the stuff that makes sensational headlines?

You can bet that politics is one of them. Take a look at today’s newspapers. The front pages especially are full of politics. They are not only full of politics: the headlines are sensational. Next to politics is crime. Our newspapers are full of crime stories. No one is saying that criminals should not be exposed. Indeed crime and criminals should be exposed. But should that be at the expense of other serious issues? Are there not other things to write about which should contribute to national development?

There are several issues that contribute to national development, and we expect the media to report on these. Nutrition is certainly one of them. Last week in the three regions, Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) was launched in the regional headquarter towns of Kenema (for the East), Bo (for the South) and Makeni (for the North). Journalists were invited in all the launchings. In each region, there were reporters for at least five newspapers present. One would have believed that the way the professionals handled nutrition and how it is inextricably linked to prosperity and national development, it (nutrition) would have made the headlines in all these newspapers this week. But this is not the case. Except for one newspaper (AWOKO), nutrition is sadly missing in our newspaper headlines.

When the District Medical Officer from Kailahun told participants at the launching in Kenema that with good nutrition, a lot of sicknesses and diseases can be PREVENTED, thus contributing greatly to reducing the cost of the Health Care Service, this, under normal circumstances, would have made newspaper headlines. But the statement, though it is a fact, is not sensational. It does not make a captivating headline.

Five print journalists reporting for five different newspapers were present in Makeni when the Deputy Director of Education in Kambia told participants at the SUN regional launching on Saturday last week that Education is very fundamental to national development because a country’s most important resource is its human resource. But without good nutrition learning cannot take place because poor nutrition affects the children’s cognitive recognition. The conclusion one is forced to draw here is that good nutrition is fundamental to national development. Yet in all this, nutrition has not made the newspaper headlines this week.

So, in informing the public through the print media, are we telling the whole story? Are newspaper readers just interested in reading stories about corruption, crime, politics, rape and violence? Are there not other issues going on which are very central to national development but which, unfortunately, are not reported?

Nutrition should not continue to be missing in the headlines. For every major event concerning SUN and nutrition interventions, journalists have always been invited. And they will continue to be invited at every major event concerning nutrition since we regard them as partners. Nutrition is everybody’s business. Nutrition is the journalists’ business because our nutrition is our prosperity. When individuals prosper, the nation will prosper. But prosperity cannot take place without GOOD NUTRITION. When the nation prospers it affects the economy positively. This will affect the sale and distribution of newspapers. It will also affect advertisement revenue.

It is for this reason that the SUN Secretariat expects to see nutrition making the headlines in both the print and electronic media in the coming weeks and months. And we are going to make sure the media join us in this business of Scaling Up Nutrition.