Call for Pitches: Dual Dangers of the COVID-19 Pandemic and Water Crisis in the Nile Basin

InfoNile invites teams made up of two journalists (a national newspaper or TV journalist and a local radio journalist) in the 11 Nile Basin countries to submit proposals for in-depth journalism stories on dual dangers of the COVID-19 pandemic and water crisis in the Nile basin. These stories are part of a series of stories and will feed into a final data journalism project including interactive maps and stories. 

COVID-19 has continued to change lives of communities worldwide, leaving many of them facing untold misery. The rapidity of the pandemic is leaving communities and governments grasping for helpful information and actions about how they can keep their people safe, make sure critical services can remain running and people can continue to support their families. Some of the most critical prevention measures promoted worldwide are hand-washing and general disinfecting. However, this implies that people have wide-ranging access to clean water and sanitation –which much of the world lacks.

In Africa’s Nile River basin, where coronavirus outbreaks are just starting to spread, much of the lower and middle Nile people basin live in areas of water scarcity and increasing drought, especially arid Egypt and Sudan as well as drought-ridden areas of Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda.

Millions of people also live in places such as refugee settlements where sanitation is poor, water access is low. In Uganda, the population using at least basic sanitation services was just 18 percent in 2017, according to most recent World Health Organization data.  In South Sudan, this number was just 11 percent, and in Ethiopia, 7.

Countries have put in place lockdowns to try to contain the pandemic, but how are the most vulnerable communities supporting their livelihoods? How are water-scarce communities trying to prevent the spread of coronavirus?

We want you to:

1.  Uncover critical stories about COVID-19 in relation to water crisis and effective responses/ solutions in your country.

2.  Relate the environmental and livelihood impacts to the vulnerability of communities amidst this pandemic.

3.  Connect the science, research and data to the reality of the COVID-19 vulnerabilities, water scarcity and the interventions being made in your country. 

4.  Communicate these stories to national and local audiences in your country.

Possible questions to answer in your story: 

  • What is the extent of water shortage or low water access in your country, and how is it impacting the spread of COVID-19?
  • What are the underlying water and sanitation challenges faced by vulnerable communities?
  • What are the innovative strategies that are working to reduce the spread of this coronavirus and ensure well-being in areas where people struggle to access clean water?
  • How are poor communities adapting to lockdowns? Which innovations are they taking up to support their livelihoods during the lockdowns? 
  • How have other infectious diseases in areas with water challenges been handled in the past, and what can we learn from these efforts?
  • Which data or other evidence can you find that proves that the problem is happening, and/or impact of these solutions? 

Integration of Data: Your story pitch should contain a plan to integrate data analysis and visualizations of water challenges on the spread of COVID-19 on different sectors or topics relevant to your story; i.e. drought, price of water, environmental degradation, cultural practices, government policies, spread of disease, livelihoods, etc. “Geo-coded” or geographical data is the most preferred, since we will use it to create interactive maps and visualizations. However, please feel free to integrate any other sources of credible data.

The output should be two in-depth stories focusing on the same topic (the two journalists will report their stories together):

One story produced for a national audience on TV or newspaper

One story produced for a local audience on a regional or community radio station (produced in local language)

Please note that if you receive facilitation to report your story, you will receive assistance in producing  graphics, data visualization and mapping. 

Stories can be published in other languages but should also be translated into English.

This project is supported with funding from the Pulitzer Centre and National Geographic Society.

Project pitches will be funded on a rolling basis between April and July 2020.
Please note that applications are now closed.

InfoNile is a collaborative cross-border group of environmental “geo” journalists with a mission to uncover critical stories on water issues in the Nile River Basin of Africa through data-based multimedia storytelling. We work on investigative multimedia data journalism projects on critical issues of water and environment across the Nile Basin. Past investigations have included issues of land grabs across the Basin, community-based solutions to wetland destruction in East Africa, and the environmental and health impacts of Sudan’s oil and gas industry

How to Apply for the Grant: 

Submit the following to

-A proposal outlining your story idea (no more than one page). Proposals should be clearly structured, stating briefly at the outset what the story idea is, followed by how and where the story will be researched, what it aims to reveal or contribute, where you will publish (specific media organizations), and the intended impact of the story. The proposal should also include a plan for incorporating data. Please note how you will use multimedia (video, photos, audio, and graphics along with text). You should also include:

-A  moderate proposed budget of no more than $500

-A resumé/CV;

-Two samples of published/broadcast work. Links to the published stories are also accepted.

-Letter of support from your editors, stating that your media houses will publish / telecast / broadcast your story.

NOTE ON COVID-19: Please note that we will be proceeding with awarding these grants. However, we will work with selected journalists individually to assist in safe ways of reporting and adapting projects during the ongoing pandemic.