Poets for Avoidable Deaths: Spoken Word Campaign Targets Preventable Deaths in Developing Nations

"Poets for Avoidable Deaths" campaign harnesses the power of spoken word poetry to amplify the voices of youth and advocate for policy changes and governance interventions to save lives in Sub-Saharan Africa and other developing regions.

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Poets for Avoidable Deaths: Spoken Word Campaign Targets Preventable Deaths in Developing Nations

The Custodians of African Literature (COAL), in collaboration with the Avoidable Deaths Network and the University of Leicester launched the “Poets for Avoidable Deaths” campaign to spotlight the critical issue of preventable deaths caused by disasters and hazards in Sub-Saharan Africa and other developing regions.

By harnessing the power of spoken word poetry, the campaign seeks to amplify the voices of youth and advocate for policy changes and governance interventions to save lives. Centered around Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) related to poverty reduction, sustainable development, and climate action, “Poets for Avoidable Deaths” aims to raise awareness and promote advocacy for reducing avoidable disaster deaths globally.

In the words of the campaign organizers, “The ‘Poets for Avoidable Deaths’ campaign aims to address the imperative need for increased disaster risk reduction awareness and governance interventions in lower-income countries, where high mortality rates from extreme weather, climate, and seismic hazards persist.”

Through impactful poetry, the campaign’s awareness materials seek to create a ripple effect, fostering long-term behavioral change among officials, donors, and communities to prioritize disaster preparedness and infrastructure investments.

COAL launched four major campaigns addressing various aspects of avoidable deaths; Maternal Mortality, Snakebite, Silicosis, and Drowning. Each campaign features compelling spoken word poetry highlighting the urgency of addressing these issues:

The first campaign, ‘Maternal Mortality’ with spoken word poem by Zambian Vanessa Chisakula sheds light on the staggering statistics of maternal deaths in low and lower-middle-income countries, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia.

Studies suggest that the primary causes of maternal mortality in Sub-Saharan Africa, particularly among women treated in hospitals, include bleeding (19%), infections after childbirth (13%), high blood pressure during pregnancy (7.8%), and uterine rupture during childbirth (7%).

Snakebite, the second campaign highlights the devastating impact of snakebites in sub-Saharan Africa, where thousands lose their lives annually due to ineffective surveillance and lack of access to healthcare. Envoi Vates a Nigerian poet shares a poignant poem on his grandfather’s missing arm and deaths caused by snakebite in villages where doctors are absent due to impoverishment. 

In the third campaign, ‘Silicosis’ Nigerian poet, Younglan delivers a powerful poem addressing the disproportionate burden of this lung disease on lower-income regions. Younglan called for the urgent need for global cooperation to prevent Silicosis prevalent in poor, ‘exploited’ mining villages.  While there is no known cure for silicosis, early detection and removal from exposure can slow or halt progression. 

A South African research study examined more than 300,000 former miners who stopped working in the mining industry from 2001 to 2013 and found that, on average, 23 out of every 1000 ex-miners passed away each year during this 12-year period. Among those who worked in different types of mines, the mortality rate was even higher, at 32.1 out of every 1000 people each year.

Nigerian poet Lardo Drowning brings attention to the neglected public health crisis of drowning predominantly with flood disasters, emphasizing the need for action to prevent the loss of over 230,000 lives annually, with a significant impact on vulnerable regions.

COAL calls on policymakers to prioritize disaster risk reduction, healthcare access, and policy change in vulnerable communities. They urge individuals to write to their local representatives, participate in advocacy campaigns, and demand action to prevent avoidable deaths.

“Reducing avoidable deaths requires an approach that involves key stakeholders at local, national, regional and global level and progress is achievable because theoretical and practical solutions exist.” 

Professor Henrietta O’Connor (Deputy Vice-Chancellor, University of Leicester)

Furthermore, COAL emphasizes empowering young creatives and African activists to drive change in their communities. They encourage listening to their stories, amplifying their voices, and providing support and resources to help them make a difference.

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