New Support From The Wellcome Trust – For Our Journalism In The Global South
Health care workers sensitize a Kenyan community to COVID-19 precautions.

In early January 2020, as our Health Policy Watch team returned to work just after the New Year’s break, our production editor who had returned from a visit to her mother in China, called me to say in a mildly worried tone: “Hi Elaine, there is a strange virus circulating in Wuhan. I thought you should know.”

Within just several weeks, we watched and wrote, and probed and wrote, as the first cases of the “novel coronavirus” spread like wildfire in the city of ten million people, to other parts of China, and then hip-hopping to Thailand, Singapore, the French Alps, an office in Germany, small communities in northern Italy, cruise ships, and beyond.

Journalists crowded into the press room at Geneva’s WHO headquarters to get briefings on the spreading virus – until we understood that it was no longer safe to do so because the virus had also arrived at our doorstep.

As COVID-19 captured headlines in media around the world, there has been new recognition of how important health is to social and economic development. But while a single virus came to dominate almost every aspect of our lives – from how we work, order food or do drug discovery – we realized that, as a media outlet specializing in health policy reporting, we need to constantly be getting “under the hood” of this fast-moving story.

This includes examining the diverse ways in which the pandemic has manifested itself in different parts of the world. And through the lens of COVID-19, we can gain new insights into a range of other thorny health issues that haven’t gone away – including HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, non-communicable diseases, drug-resistant pathogens, air pollution, climate change, and more.

Health Policy Watch’s Kerry Cullinan interviewed Professor Kelly Chibale,, founder and director of the Holistic Drug Discovery and Development (H3D) Centre at the University of Cape Town (UCT), who is studying how African populations metabolize drugs – an issue that goes beyond COVID-19.

In the same way that polaroid glasses allow you to see beneath the sunlight’s glare over water to appreciate the fish, the coral reefs – and also the plastic debris otherwise concealed – COVID-19 has given us a new lens through which we can see much better.

We can see how well health systems are functioning – or not; the racial and socio-economic inequalities that can hinder public health crisis response – and the importance of evidence-based political leadership.

We can appreciate how climate change and ecosystem degradation are increasing pandemic risks and threatening decades of hard-won health gains. Armed with greater awareness, we can strengthen the debate about how to clear away the systemic, long-term threats we face – along with the pandemic.

New Support from The Wellcome Trust

In line with that vision and mission, we are pleased to announce new support from the Wellcome Trust. This will enable us to redouble efforts to report on all aspects of the pandemic by bringing on new reporters from the Global South, in turn fostering a more balanced health policy dialogue.

Social distancing and mask measures at a KFC outlet in Ibadan – Health Policy Watch’s Paul Adepoju looked at how Nigerians are coming to terms with COVID.

As we head into 2021, we expect that COVID-19 will continue to dominate the news for some time. And we will continue writing about pandemic trends and responses, new drug innovations, and the rollout of long-awaited COVID vaccines.

But we will also explore the broader health issues, through the “COVID-19 lens” that has sharpened our insights into the challenges we face, and how we can rebound and recover – in even better shape.

One key to this is a more balanced dialogue between policymakers and the public as well as between voices in the north and south. The new support we gain from the Wellcome Trust will help us to  build  out our “network approach” to journalism – to link global and regional health policy debates, bridge ideological divides and bring more developing country media voices into the circuit of our coverage.

As Will Hall, Wellcome’s Global Policy and Advocacy Manager told us: “New digital platforms, such as Health Policy Watch, bring fresh perspectives to debates, including from low- and middle-income countries.

“We are pleased to support them in this effort to amplify the voices of journalists in the global south across interconnected health challenges.”

COVID-19 Pandemic Relief Services, New Delhi. Health Policy Watch’s Menaka Rao and Jyoti Pande Lavakare explored how COVID-19 cases rose this autumn, along with air pollution levels.
About our Team

Our small and nimble team is based in Geneva, a global health hub that is home to the World Health Organization and dozens of global health organizations. We operate under the auspices of the non-profit, Global Policy Reporting Association – which has been providing media services for over 15 years.

We already have reporters corresponding from Nairobi, Ibadan, Delhi and Cape Town, as well as from New York City and London. And in 2021, we will be building out our team further into English-speaking parts of Africa; southeast Asia, western Pacific and Latin America and the Caribbean.

Menaka Rao, Delhi
Jyoti Pande Lavakare, environmental health
Kerry Cullinan, Cape Town
Paul Adepoju, Ibadan







Says Kerry Cullinan, our Africa editor: “Health Policy Watch ensures that the voices and experiences of African policy-makers, health workers and patients are heard by global decision-makers in Geneva, providing a unique platform for an exchange of views and news.”

We will be boosting our columnists to provide “Inside Views” from a diversity of regions, disciplines and perspectives.   We urge you to get in touch with us by email or @HealthPolicyW with your ideas for stories and op-eds.

Wellcome Trust – a new supporter of Health Policy Watch reporting in the Global South

Finally, we retain as a core value that of accurate, evidence-based and independent reporting. With regards to the latter, we appreciate the complete editorial freedom accorded to us under the terms of the Wellcome Trust support.

After the dark days of 2020, we sincerely hope that the New Year may indeed see further milestones in strengthening health systems, supporting health workers, and reducing the terrible burden of the pandemic on peoples, societies and economies. Sincere wishes for a brighter, and COVID-free, 2021!

Elaine Ruth Fletcher

Image Credits: WHO African Region, Photo : Victoria Nthenge/Trocaire, Kerry Cullinan, P Adepoju/HP-Watch, Belur Math, Howrah, Jyoti Pande Lavakare, Courtesy of Kerry Cullinan.

Combat the infodemic in health information and support health policy reporting from the global South. Our growing network of journalists in Africa, Asia, Geneva and New York connect the dots between regional realities and the big global debates, with evidence-based, open access news and analysis. To make a personal or organisational contribution click here on PayPal.