Categories:  Alumni

Journalist crowdsources funds for Ebola reporting

Sophia Newman

M. Sophia Newman plans to travel to Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire to report on the food crisis developing as a result of the Ebola outbreak in neighboring countries Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.

As many avoid West Africa in light of the Ebola outbreak, UIC graduate M. Sophia Newman plans to travel there next month.

Her freelance journalism project, “After Ebola Comes Hunger,” will document the overlooked threat Ebola poses to food security. She plans to travel to Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire to report on the food crisis developing as a result of the Ebola outbreak in neighboring countries Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.

“There has been a huge raft of stories on Ebola but the long-term affects have not yet been calculated,” said Newman, who received a master’s in public health in 2011. “There’s always a need for good journalism that is well-informed.”

To fund her trip and research, Newman has set up an online crowdsource fund through a partnership with Beacon Reader and Pacific Standard Magazine. She has received about half of the $7,500 she needs to raise by Friday for her trip.

“What I hope is that this is one small contribution I can make to the people in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire and even to people here,” Newman said. “Everyone benefits from having a clearer idea about what’s going on in our planet.”

Food problems already plague West Africa, she said. In Ghana, 75 percent of children are anemic due to malnutrition, agricultural problems and malaria. In Côte d’Ivoire, the problem is even worse, Newman said.

“There’s a sort of unfortunate fact of the human condition that we wait for things to get catastrophic and then react,” she said. “Let’s not wait for a hunger catastrophe to happen before we react. Let’s not ignore things that are more subtle yet just as important.”

This research project isn’t Newman’s first. In 2007 and 2010, she worked on projects in rural Ghana related to malnutrition and infectious disease in young children. She completed a Fulbright fellowship in Bangladesh in 2012 and 2013 on mental health systems development and the Rana Plaza factory collapse.

UIC’s diverse network of researchers has helped Newman in pursuing these projects.

“I’ve never stopped being in touch with the people here,” she said.  “It’s been a happy place with good collaboration.”

No cases of Ebola have been reported in Ghana or Côte d’Ivoire so far but Newman will be taking extensive precautions.

“Microbes don’t care about geography or political borders,” she said. “I’m not cavalier about this.”

For more information on Newman and her work, visit her blog.

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