A story published by PRIME PROGRESS, one of Nigeria's leading solutions journalism platforms, has won the maiden Cleft Awareness Media Award put together by Smile Train, the world's largest Cleft charity.
The story written by freelance contributor, Arinze Chijioke, and titled "How Nigerian Children With Usual Holes In Their Mouths Get Free Surgeries", looked at how the nonprofit provides free surgeries for children born with a cleft.
Chijioke beat Sunday Ehigiator, a ThisDay newspaper reporter and first runner up, and Andrea Onuoha, a freelance journalist (second runner up), to clinch the first position.
Speaking during the award ceremony in Abuja on Monday, December 13, Smile Train's Vice-President and Regional Director for Africa, Nkeiruka Obi, said the win clearly reflects Chijioke's passion and commitment to good journalism. She said it also shows his time spent creating awareness about cleft lip and/or palate in Nigeria through solutions journalism.
"This is in line with Smile Train's mission, which is to support families worldwide by creating, connecting, and sharing resources about cleft care," she said.
Obi said Smile Train hopes that the award will sustain Chijioke's commitment to ensuring that everyone born and living with a cleft lip and/or palate has access to the care they deserve to live a normal and productive life.
Reacting, Chijioke said the award would encourage him to continue doing good journalism, especially solutions journalism, with passion.
"I feel honoured to have emerged winner of the maiden award. The report for which I won the prize is one of the most remarkable pieces of journalism I have done so far because I saw the surgery firsthand," he said. "The award will encourage me to further tell stories around cleft and dispel the notion that it's an evil omen and that there is a cure for it."
Meanwhile, Obi explained that Smile Train empowers local medical professionals with training, funding, and resources to provide free cleft surgery and comprehensive cleft care to children globally.
"We advance a sustainable solution and scalable global health model for cleft treatment, drastically improving children's lives, including their ability to eat, breathe, speak, and ultimately thrive," she said.