Life In Lulu: saving the lives of mothers and babies in South Sudan

Life In Lulu dramatises what happens when characters make – or fail to make – healthy choices

Welcome to Lulu, a village in rural South Sudan. Lulu is 50 km from the nearest town and with its green and yellow maize farms, circular thatched homes and thriving village market, is home to a lively line-up of characters.

There's Malish, the opinionated blacksmith with his blind faith in traditional practices; Faida, the humble and hard-working village brewer; Nyamal, a jealous and suspicious first wife and Veronica, Lulu's self-important traditional healer.

Malish, Faida, Nyamal and Veronica are just some of the characters in the radio drama, Life In Lulu, which explores what happens when people make good (and bad) decisions about their health and focuses on the welfare of Lulu's women and babies.

Life In Lulu echoes the experience of ordinary people in villages across the country. In South Sudan, because of a lack of money, medical facilities and knowledge about even simple life-saving actions, more women die from pregnancy-related causes than anywhere else in the world.

According to the United Nations Development Programme, a woman has a 1 in 7 chance of dying from pregnancy-related causes in South Sudan.

Healthy choices

Based on BBC Media Action's formative research, Life In Lulu explores people’s beliefs about pregnancy, childbirth, death and child-rearing. For example, the research revealed that many women felt they would be criticised as bad mothers if they decided to breastfeed their babies without giving them any other food or water for six months. Or that a woman only has a complicated pregnancy or painful delivery if she has been unfaithful.

Tackling such beliefs, Life In Lulu dramatises what happens when characters make – or fail to make – healthy choices such as exclusively breastfeeding their babies or giving birth in a health facility with the help of a trained birth attendant.

As real as possible

Getting the message across in the most entertaining and realistic way possible is the production team’s biggest priority. And they use all kinds of ways to do it.

For a scene in which a drowning fisherman is saved by a girl, the team used a children's paddling pool – and actors willing to get their feet wet – to convey the dramatic rescue. 

Encouraging such creativity and professional production techniques among producers is central to the training which forms an important part of the project. Recognising the lack of radio drama experience in South Sudan, BBC Media Action worked in partnership with a local group called Woyee Film and Theatre Industry to help build their skills, so they can branch out into radio drama production.

Spanning the whole country

Because of South Sudan's lack of a single, common language, the drama is produced in two languages, English and Simple Arabic. English is the official language but a simplified version of pidgin Arabic – Simple Arabic – is the most widely understood.

Life In Lulu is also accompanied by another radio programme called Our Tukul, which packages interviews, opinion and expert advice to provide information, explore social beliefs and increase people's confidence in how they can keep their families and children healthy.

Both programmes are broadcast nationally in South Sudan through partnerships with 16 radio stations.

Project information
Project name Global Grant: Health
Funder DFID
Dates 2011-2017
Themes Health
Outputs Life in Lulu
Broadcast partners 16 partner station inc Catholic Radio Network- CRN, Internews, Radio Jonglei
Partners Supported by the Ministry of Health, South Sudan