In a bid to close the gap of underreporting hard-to-reach communities, the Godshield Kanjal Journalism Foundation, a media-focused non-profit, recently launched a community Vox pop Initiative aimed at telling the untold stories of deprived people in hard-to-reach communities in Cross River State.
The foundation promotes independent media practice, investigative and data-driven reporting, reportage on environmental-related issues, and human rights protection.
At the flag-off of the initiative weekend, in Itung Akpe and Itung Mission Autonomous communities, in Ibil, Ogoja Local Government Area of Cross River state, Godshield Kanjal, founder of the initiative, said the aim is to bridge the gap of communication between government and underserved communities.
Kanjal held that there are many underreported communities by the mainstream media, deprived of basic amenities like portable drinkable water, health care, roads, schools, electricity, and a lack of knowledge of environmental conservation.
The initiative, named ‘Community vox pop Initiative: telling the untold stories of hard-to-reach communities’ seeks to identify key challenges facing people in remote rural communities through interviews and engagements with the locals.
He said by reporting stories in these hard-to-reach communities, the government and other intervention organisations can act by providing the locals with basic amenities for better livelihood.
He added that the communities visited had been abandoned for several years, depriving the locals of basic amenities.
According to him, interviews and data obtained from the communities will be reported in different media forms, with the hope that the voices of these communities get to policymakers and is subsequently translated into action.
“This is a social impact initiative aimed at telling stories of the plights of these locals who have been deprived of enjoying basic amenities,” he said.
He added, “The people of these Communities take part in every election as they have said, but after being promised to provide these basic amenities to them, the elected representatives turn a blind eye to them.”
No primary health centre
Both hard-to-reach communities visited by the foundation: Itung Akpe and Itung Mission respectively, have no Primary Health Centre. Not even a patent medicine or chemist shop is in the communities.
In a distressed tone, Chief Francis Ibu, the village head of Itung Akpe, lamented that his village has been marginalised and deprived of basic amenities, especially basic health care.
“We are suffering here. Our wives, children and aged people are sick and have no health post or even a chemist shop to get drugs from. We are appealing to government and NGOs to come to our aid and provide us with a health post to ease the burden of travelling miles away to buy drugs,” he said.
Also, the village head of Itung Mission, Godwin Awori, appealed to the government and other organisations to aid them and provide them with a health facility.
A community health worker at a Primary Health Centre in Ogoja, who did not want her name mentioned, said even the existing health centres lack equipment and personnel.
“We are lacking essential drugs, and the staffing of these PHCs is poor,” she said.
The communities’ only source of drinking water is from the well, but during drought, their wells dry up, and this is primarily the effect of climate change.
A youth in the community, Micheal Ashaya, says that the locals drink from the wells and stream water, which is unhealthy.
He appealed to the government and NGOs to come to the rescue.
Though farming is their primary occupation, the effects of climate change have caused untold hardship to the people as they experience extreme flooding during the rainy season and, at the same time, extreme drought.
In September last year, the riverine Communities experienced severe flooding, which submerged their farms and swept up their crops.
Also July this year, the communities experienced severe drought, which dried up their crops on the farms.
It is Kanjal’s hope that continuously platforming communities like these two will lead to actions that will elevate their plight.