INSTEAD of the global pandemic forcing an international scheme between UK researchers and a charity in Zambia to be postponed or even worse, completely cancelled, the researchers went back to the drawing board which opened the doors for the project to become even more successful than they originally hoped.
Now, the researchers have been talking about their project ‘Life-Saving Lullabies Reducing Maternal and Infant Deaths in Zambia’ to share their success and methods of best practice at a number of international conferences.
The most recent was with the University of Huddersfield’s Dr James Reid who recently delivered a talk at the international conference on stillbirth, SIDS and infant deaths, hosted by the International Stillbirth Alliance and the International Society for the Prevention of Infant Death. Prior to this the lead researcher, Dr David Swann from Sheffield Hallam University, was invited to talk about the sustainability of the project at the Resilience Hub of the UN Climate Change Conference COP26.
A model of best practice
Life-Saving Lullabies is an award-winning community-led maternal and infant health intervention in Zambia. Funded by UK Arts and Humanities Research Council, this 12-month research project with St John Zambia investigated the potential of song as a novel public health education intervention to reduce maternal and neonatal mortality.
The project will also feature in a forthcoming report commissioned for the World Health Organisation as an example of how arts-based practices support relational community engagement processes in lower and middle-income countries.
A film production and media company based in Lusaka, Zambia called Ufulu Films has produced a number of bite-sized videos on the project. One, which summarises the entire project, can be seen here.
The project’s successes
The researchers of the multi-disciplinary project – with Dr Reid being focused on education and Dr Swann on design – originally planned to physically hold workshops in Zambia concentrating on Sustainable Development Goals No.3 – Access to Health and No.5 – Gender Equality.
“COVID pushed us to think about our sustainability in a different way,” said Dr Reid. “It demonstrated that you can actually do international development projects at a distance and with a very low carbon footprint.”
He explained how the pandemic had forced their hands to say to those involved in the project in Zambia, ‘look here you go, you need to take this project forward’.
“We were always going to get to that point, but it helped us check our assumptions about when people are ready to take charge. These women were absolutely ready to run with it and take the project over.”
He also believes the fact they weren’t present in a physical sense benefitted the women in other ways.
“The local mothers viewed the women at St John’s as the ones with the expertise. It was much better that we weren’t there to overshadow their efforts or be a distraction,” said Dr Reid.
“I think that is one of the dangers with developmental work, particularly if you have people coming from the west or the global north. They can often be incorrectly deemed as being the experts when actually it’s the local people who are,” he added.
Dr Reid is now working with St. John’s in the hope of securing a bid so that they can introduce the scheme not only across Zambia, but also into Malawi, Uganda, and Zimbabwe.