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Write about malaria: But only if you are a UK citizen!

March 14, 2010 - 22:25 -- Bart G.J. Knols

Now that we're reaching the end of the first decade in which the world focused on the Millenium Development Goals, it is time to look both back and forward. Several competitions have been set up to get both amateur and professional journalists interested in writing about the failures and successes so far, including malaria. But the Guardian has a special way of doing this...

Two of the themes in the Guardian competition are sponsored by the Malaria Consortium International and are related to a) climate change and vector-borne disease, and b) the role of mass bednet distribution in the fight against malaria.


These are two important issues and it is great to see these themes included in the competition. Last week I read about this and immediately thought about posting it on the MalariaWorld platform, so that all subscribers could enter the competition. But then I noticed that only amateur and professional journalists that are UK citizens and reside in the UK are allowed to submit a 650-1000 word piece on these issues. That is strange. Why should only UK citizens be allowed to enter the competition and not journalists from, for example, Bolivia, Tanzania, Germany, or Vietnam? 


MalariaWorld contacted Sunil Mehra, the Executive Director of the Malaria Consortium International to find out more about the reasons for excluding non-UK writers. If broader exposure is needed about international development issues, including malaria, then why should not any journalist, anywhere in the world, be encouraged to do so?


He did not respond, but we did receive a reply from Diana Thomas, communications manager of the consortium. She felt sympathy for our concerns but explained that the rules for participation were set by UK's department for international development (DFID). However, the consortium's website details with big letters that this is an exclusive event for the UK. We will contact DFID next and keep you posted.


Imagine if Nigeria would invite its journalistic talents to enroll in a competition to write about the UK National Health Service, but would exclude UK writers from participating...


If you are a winner in the Guardian competition your article will be published in the newspaper. UK writers publishing about malaria in a UK newspaper for the UK public.


Contrast this with the EU-sponsored competition TH!NK3, which is exactly the same but open to anyone in the world...


Right or wrong? Tell us what you think. Perhaps MalariaWorld should launch its own competition for anyone around the world, on exactly these same topics?



Bart G.J. Knols's picture
Submitted by Bart G.J. Knols on

I have received email correspondence from Mr. Matt Lesslar of DFID regarding the exclusion of non-UK residents to enter the competition. In the email he stated:

'The competition is open to citizens of any country, however they must be resident within the UK between August and November this year. This is because we are unable to support the costs of bringing entrants to and from the UK to attend necessary briefings and other activities that might arise during this period.'

By phone, I was told that it is too late to change the rules and regulation for this year's competition. This in spite of MalariaWorld offering financial sponsorship to cover travel expenses for any winning entry (related to the two malaria themes) from outside the UK.

Why exactly entrants have to be based in the UK was not entirely clear. Mr. Lesslar mentioned something about workshops, but nothing of this can be found on the website. As far as I can see, entrants would need support to enter the award ceremony, should they get this far.

So, the good news is that all MalariaWorld members can participate, the bad news that you have to be in the UK between August and November. Maybe some of you are...