A young reporter on the health beat

Sylvia Chebet is a TV journalist who landed her own health slot when she was in her early twenties. She so impressed her editor that a new program, called Heartbeat, was created on prime time TV in Kenya to air her constant stream of stories on vital health issues. 

Sylvia Chebet, Reporter for Citizen TV in Kenya.

Sylvia Chebet, Reporter for Citizen TV in Kenya.

Sylvia Chebet from Citizen TV, based in Nairobi, participated in the first group of TV trainees at Internews’ Local Voices program in Kenya in May, learning how to report on HIV/AIDS and other health issues accurately and effectively.

“Before the training, it would have scared me,” says Sylvia. “How and where would I find the stories to fill such a slot? But now somehow my eyes have been opened. Now I have so many stories, my only fear is I won’t have enough time to do them all!”

Sylvia says when her first feature was broadcast, her colleagues in the newsroom gave her a standing ovation. “I had done it during my leave; I had to make time sacrifices,” she says. “It is so rewarding that my new way of storytelling has caught everyone’s attention.”

Heartbeat’s first episode featured a story on multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB). Sylvia followed the leads on this story from an MDR-TB roundtable hosted by Internews’ Nairobi office a few weeks before.

The second story on Heartbeat was about Josephine, an HIV-positive woman who began receiving anti-retroviral drugs just in time and now has the courage to care for herself and her child.

The third week’s episode features blood safety, another story Sylvia produced following an Internews roundtable on the topic.

All three stories were filmed and edited by Internews TV trainer Dolphine Emali.

“At first, my pictures didn’t talk like they do now,” Sylvia says. “With my new skills I have the confidence to believe in my stories.”

Citizen TV airs Heartbeat on Tuesday nights during the 9 pm prime time news bulletin.

Sylvia plans to alternate HIV and other health issues on Heartbeat, thereby creating significantly more HIV-related content than was previously seen on Citizen TV.

“We wanted to give health issues a human face. There is so much more to health reporting than what we see in the local media. So we created Heartbeat. The name tells you it’s about all of life, the whole human body.” says Citizen news editor, Lilian Odera.

In Kenya, about 6 in every 100 people is HIV-positive. Donor agencies have found that people in Kenya know surprisingly little about HIV. Thanks in large part to one dedicated and talented health reporter, now Citizen TV has given priority to this critically important story.

Since launching Local Voices in 2002, Internews has provided more than 1,100 radio, print and TV media professionals in Africa, Asia and Europe with specialized training and long term mentoring on reporting effectively on HIV/AIDS, avian flu, malaria and other health issues.

Internews Network’s health journalism programs in Africa and India are funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) through the President’s Emergency Fund for AIDS Relief.  Internews Europe’s health journalism programs in Southeast Asia are funded by the UK’s Department for International Development.

In celebration of International Women's Day 2011, Sylvia Chebet talked on video about her reporting on humanitarian and women's issues. 


Banner photo: Interview in Kenya. (credit: Dolphine Emali/Internews)