With one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world and abject poverty impacting a majority of the population, Zambia is in dire need of community outreach, particularly on behalf of women and children. We’re so excited to have found a partner on the ground in Zambia who shares our vision for reducing infant mortality and improving maternal health conditions.
Krishna Bhakta, founder of the non-profit One Zambia, is advocating on behalf of the country’s families, with a Baby Box program launching this year to support poverty-stricken parents and their newborns.
The below interview with Krishna is from February 2015.
Tell us about your NGO One Zambia.
One Zambia was founded by a group of Zambian diaspora in October, coinciding with the Golden Jubilee of Zambia's Independence. 50 years of setting the foundations has given rise to a Zambia that’s ready to truly soar.
The idea behind One Zambia is to bring all Zambians as well as non-Zambians together for a common good. Through charity work, helping establish new opportunities, and supporting ongoing efforts like medical drives and education programs, the impact we can have on communities here is immeasurable.
What led you to establish a Baby Box program in Zambia?
My team and I decided to launch a Baby Box program as our flagship initiative in 2015 because of two primary factors:
1.We like that the concept is simple but effective - a sleep safe Baby Box containing infant essentials makes sense.
2. The impact of the Baby Box on families is tremendous. After looking into the statistics with Finland and conducting additional research on infant mortality and its causes, we were convinced that this was the right project for us. What better way to improve the lives of Zambians than by first improving the lives of the most vulnerable, those with the most potential; the newborns, Zambia's next generation.
What are some of the specific challenges facing new parents in the Zambian communities you serve?
In the rural areas, there is no readily available medical care for infants. Expecting mothers have to either go to NGO supported clinics or try to arrange to have a midwife present during birth. Oftentimes, neither of these options are viable and, as a result, women give birth at home without a skilled attendant.
In the cities, access to care is easier, but living conditions are still often poor, making birth and new parenthood extremely challenging. The poorer suburbs of cities often lack the basic necessities that parents require to ensure their child is safe, warm and clean.
The under 5-year-old mortality rate in Zambia is 119/1000 according to UNICEF. Although the factors contributing to this high number are vast, we believe the Baby Box has the potential to substantially remove/reduce some of these factors. Safety, warmth, hygiene and education are the key goals for the Baby Box campaign—we feel confident that a visible impact will be seen as a result of this program in the long term.
When you say long term, what are you envisioning in terms of program structure?
Ongoing. We want to set up a long-term program, one that will regularly send Baby Boxes to Zambia and bring about a profound change in the country. Our mission is not only to supply Baby Boxes to those in rural areas, but also to those in need in cities and towns. Over time as we grow, we hope that charts such as the one in Finland showing decreasing mortality rates will become a reality in Zambia and other African countries.
For more information about One Zambia, visit www.onezambia.org