All the best health stories from
the Bhekisisa team this week
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This year, Bhekisisa put a human face to the cost of state capture when we reported on the death of a four-year-old boy who died after being kept illegally at the Lindela Repatriation Centre in Krugersdorp. Lindela is managed by Bosasa that has been repeatedly linked to one of the worst forms of state capture in South Africa’s history. 

But Bhekisisa has also cast its gaze inwards, looking at the ugly side of power dynamics — and abuses — within civil society. “Do-gooders” sometimes escape the scrutiny otherwise reserved for the likes of the Guptas or Gavin Watsons. 

When you deal with society’s most vulnerable, your behaviour and accountability are all the more important. 

Earlier this year, we received an opinion piece from a frustrated former aid worker. Like many before him, he’d been prompted to write about inefficiencies in the humanitarian aid sector. The narrative he wove about his time in Burma with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was, sadly, not new: The difficulties of negotiating with armed groups, a lack of progress and an inability within the United Nations system to move quickly. 

But he also discussed a possible solution to make aid organisations more accountable and, for that, we thought his piece was worth publishing. 

On March 27 2019, the ICRC received the edited piece in full prior to publication for right of reply of equal or greater length than the opinion piece.

The ICRC was uneasy about the worker’s allegations. Over the following few weeks, we, therefore, exchanged emails and had multiple teleconferences with the ICRC to discuss their concerns. Portions of the piece that they flagged as being of dubious veracity were removed.

Ultimately, we worked as any editor would, with them to help strengthen their reply by, for instance, asking for more specific figures and sources.  We kept both parties abreast of the publication date.

At no point in written or verbal communications had the ICRC said that the material contained in the final opinion piece was untrue. 

Then on a Thursday night, long after the pieces had gone to the printers to appear in the following day’s Mail & Guardian, our deputy editor received a call from the ICRC to ask us not to publish online. There could be legal implications for us, they warned. The Swiss courts could consider us complicit in any future court case brought against the author. 

Our legal counsel in South Africa assured us this was “classic protected and fair comment”.  But, our lawyer wasn’t familiar with Swiss law. 

And Swiss lawyers don’t come cheap. 

We’ve spent the last four months pulling every contact we had to try to access discounted legal advice, which still costs a reporter’s salary in South African rands.

Finally, with the help of one of our board members, we were able to access a Swiss lawyer who would provide an opinion for free.

The legal risk to us in publishing these two pieces is not non-existent, however small. And for many small new organisations like ourselves, even a tiny risk of legal fees is not something we take lightly. It can very quickly kill a small newsroom like ourselves. 

But we have decided to publish

Not just because we believe we are being bullied. But because not publishing would allow large international organisations — be they Big Tobacco firms or, in this case, the custodians of international humanitarian law — to restrict the right of news organisations to publish what is fair comment, particularly in aid-receiving countries.

After consulting with a top Swiss media law firm, we are confident that the legal risk of publishing does not outweigh the issues of editorial principle

And organisations, like people, are built in everyday actions. We know what we decide today will shape Bhekisisa in days and years to come. 

Why are we sharing this with you? Because Bhekisisa is not only accountable to its board, we’re first and foremost accountable to you, our readers. 

Without your support, our work wouldn’t be possible. 

Your contributions and support help to keep Bhekisisa free, fair and independent. If you’d like to invest in journalism that holds the powerful to account, no matter how small the amount, you can do so here. 

All the best, 
Mia Malan
, Bhekisisa editor-in-chief | @MiaMalan
and Laura López González, deputy editor | @LLopezGonzalez

Help us keep quality health journalism and social justice reporting free. Click here.
In the world of humanitarian aid, who watches the watchers?

"One community affected by armed conflict asked me and my colleagues for only one thing: a stretcher for their ambulance. A year passed and we hadn’t managed to deliver it. But we kept writing reports and sending emails. No one inquired about our failures; no one held us accountable", writes Menelaos Agaloglou this week.

Maybe the best-placed people to hold aid accountable are those that it's been entrusted to serve. Find out how beneficiary audits could help flip the power dynamics within the humanitarian sector and make for better aid.

But aid isn't perfect and most times, it doesn't work right away, writes Ewan Watson, the head of public relations at the ICRC in response, in this right of reply.
Why it’s time more donors stepped up to fund bottom-up approaches to tracking #aid, via @Bhekisisa_MG: Why it’s time more donors stepped up to fund bottom-up approaches to tracking #aid, via @Bhekisisa_MG:
Trumped: The US takes its controversial stances over abortion to the United Nations. (Shealah Craighead)
The first United Nations high-level meeting on universal health coverage has come and gone, but not before the Trump administration steamrolled over 60 countries to undermine sexual and reproductive rights.

Heads of state signed the landmark document on Monday and South Africa formed part of the coalition of countries to hit back at the United States.

Activists at the meeting say their hearts sank when local health minister Zweli Mkhize did not speak out against watered-down wording in the document that could give conservative countries the loophole they need to rollback abortion rights.

The behind the scenes drama, the bickering and the backlash, Joan van Dyk’s got it all in one place.

Read the full story
Coalition of the unwilling: Go behind the scenes- of the battle royal over this latest UN declaration via @Bhekisisa_MG. #SHRH Coalition of the unwilling: Go behind the scenes- of the battle royal over this latest UN declaration via @Bhekisisa_MG. #SHRH
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Refiloe Maselwane from North West
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Opportunities from around the web:

Programmes coordinator, Initiative for Strategic Litigation in Africa (ISLA)

The feminist and pan-African organisation, ISLA, seeks to hire a programmes coordinator looking to make a contribution to the advancement of human rights in the field of sexual and reproductive health rights.

The coordinator will be responsible for providing administrative, operational and programmatic support services to assisned programmes and units. 

The successful candidate will preferably have a bachelors degree or an equivalent combination of education and / or experience that may substitute for a degree. The candidate will also have five years' experience coordinating and administrating programme activities for non-profits.

Applicants must be willing to work outside of regular weekday hours and travel occasionally within and out of South Africa.

Preference will be given to qualifying applicants who are women.

Deadline: 30 September
Find out more

Project manager, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) — Botswana

GIZ seeks to employ an antiretroviral (ARV) drugs value chain project manager to be based in Gaborone, Botswana.

The manager will prepare in-depth analysis of development opportunities within the ARV value chain, plan and monitor the efficient use of project finances, build, maintain and update a monitoring and evaluation system and support the programme manager in preparing high quality reporting.

The successful candidate will have a master's degree or equivalent in pharmacology, bio-medical sciences, biotechnology and / or public policy, public administration or an equivalent. 

All candidates must be fluent in English and knowledge of an additional international language will be considered an advantage.

Deadline: 4 October
Find out more

Sexual rights litigation network manager, Initiative for Strategic Litigation in Africa (ISLA)

ISLA seeks to employ a feminist litigation network manager to be based in South Africa.

The manager will be responsible for managing the activities and providing leadership in developing and implementing the Sexual Rights Network.

Successful candidates will have a bachelors degree, at least five years' experience in a network management position, and in-depth knowledge of strategic litigation and fundraising experience. 

Applicants must be willing to work outside of regular weekday hours and travel occasionally within and out of South Africa.

Preference will be given to women.

Deadline: 30 September
Find out more

Call for applications, Rise Up: Gender Equity Initiative (GEI)

Rise Up, a leader in the global movement for gender equity launched the GEI in partnership with Cummins Inc. in order to advance education, opportunity, social justice and gender equity in South Africa.

The organisation will select 20 civil society and non-profit leaders from Gauteng and Durban to participate in a week-long advocacy and leadership accelerator workshop in February 2020. The purpose of the workshop is to build their advocacy capacity, strengthen leadership skills and develop a holistic understanding of the issues affecting women and girls in their communities.

Leaders will then have the opportunity to apply for competitive seed funding to launch their strategies to advance gender equity and justice across the country.

Deadline: 28 October
Find out more

Call for nominations, Aspen New Voices fellowship

Nominations are now open for the Aspen Institute's New Voices 2020 fellowship. The opportunity offers development experts from across Africa, Asia, and Latin America a year-long programme of media support, advocacy training research and writing coaching.

The institute seeks leaders from countries that are underrepresented in global development conversations. Successful candidates will live and work in the communities they service and advocate for changes they want to see at home. Twenty-five fellows will be selected for the 2020 class of which 15 will be experts in fields such as infectious and non-infectious diseases, food security, mental health, development economics, health and human rights as well as climate change.

The remaining 10 will be experts working on the frontlines of sexual and reproductive health rights.

Deadline: 15 October
Find out more

Public lecture: Harnessing the Immune Response — To measles elimination and beyond, National Institute for Communicable Diseases — Johannesburg

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases will be hosting Melinda Suchard on 4 November at 5.30 pm as part of the Poliomyelitis Research Foundation's 14th James HS Gear Memorial Lecture. 

The talk will take place in the James Gear Auditorium.

RSVP by emailing Irma Latsky or contact them on 011 555 0395

Call for proposals, African Research Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases (ARNTD): African Researchers' Small Grants Program

The ARNTD with support from the United States Agency for International Development and the United Kingdom (UK) aid from the UK government through the Coalition for Operational Research on Neglected Tropical Diseases is seeking grant proposals.

Proposals will be for both operational and social science research on emerging challenges facing NTD programme implementation in Africa. 

Researchers — especially junior researchers and academics based in research institutions or universities in Africa may apply.

The small grants targeted at junior and senior researchers at the masters or PhD level will provide grants ranging from USD$5 000 to $25 000. 

Applications are accepted in both English and French.

Deadline: 30 September
Find out more

Call for papers, BioMed Central (BMC)

Submissions are now open to contribute manuscripts to the following journals: BMC Public Health; Environmental Health; Environmental Sciences Europe; Globalization and HealthMicrobiome and One Health Outlook.

The theme across all journals is environmental justice. Papers should shed light on the contribution evidence-based research can give to develop better practices and policies towards stronger environmental justice.

Submissions can include but are not limited to research on air pollution, sewage management, water systems management, drinking water quality and pesticides.

Deadline: 1 November
Find out more

Call for abstracts, Health Systems Trust

Abstract submissions are now open for the 2020 edition of the South African Health Review (SAHR). The coming edition's theme is equitable healthcare for people with disabilities in South Africa.

The Health Systems Trust is seeking abstracts providing fresh insights into health systems strengthening efforts for equitable healthcare for persons with disabilities. Preference will be given to manuscripts that take into account the complexities and opportunities for developing and sustaining inclusive health systems, especially in the context of universal health coverage.

The review will represent an evidence base which can be used to strengthen health systems and services to inform future policy development in South Africa.

Deadline: 31 October
Find out more

Partnership opportunity, Rise Against Hunger: 2020 Nourishing Lives

The international hunger relief organisation Rise Against Hunger seeks to partner with organisations around the world to provide food and other life-changing assistance to the world's most vulnerable. The organisation provides fortified rice-soy meals.

Rise Against Hunger has opened applications for the provision of food assistance for meal, nutrition and medical programmes under its "Nourishing Lives" programme.

The organisation will evaluate partnership applications by the level of need within the community, the sustainability of the organisation's programme, its ability to import and manage in-country distribution as well as its ability to conduct monitoring and evaluation.

Deadline: 30 September
Find out more

Regional stakeholder engagement advisor, AVAC — New York

The advocacy organisation, AVAC, seeks to employ a regional stakeholder engagement advisor. 

The advisor will provide technical, content-focused support to the organisation's research engagement activities, with a focus on activities in East and Southern Africa.

The successful candidate will have a passion for and experience in HIV prevention research advocacy. The candidate will also have a bachelors degree in a relevant field or a master's degree and/or experience in public or global health, development or other relevant fields.

Find out more

Call for female experts in any field, Quote This Woman+ — Various locations

Quote This Woman+ is a project to establish an online database of women and non-binary experts to improve gender representation in sourcing among the media. During the election season alone, Quote This Woman+ fielded more than 500 calls from journalists wanting to increase the voices of women in the media.

Keen to be quoted? Submit your details to

Deadline: N/A
Find out more

Have something to say or an opportunity to share? Let us know. Email tip-offs, comments or story and opinion suggestions to 

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The Bhekisisa Team
Copyright © 2019 Bhekisisa Development Media NPC. All rights reserved.

Our mailing address is:
Bhekisisa Centre for Health Journalism, Metal Box
25 Owl Street, 4th Floor, Braamfontein Werf, 2092, Johannesburg, South Africa

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