Original Research

The 'Snake song': a pilot study of musical intervention in Eswatini


Lee T Erickson1 MSc

Thea Litschka-Koen 2 Founder & Chairperson

Jonathan Pons3 MD

Tommaso Celeste Bulfone4 MSc

Gideon Bhendile 5

Shannon Fuller6 MSc

Eoin Harrington 7

Jerry Harrison 8

Stephen Samuel 9 MBBS, MSc, PhD

Matthew Lewin10 MD, PhD, Director *


1 Department of Global Health Sciences, University of California, San Francisco, CA, USA; and Franklin Pierce University, Master of Physician Assistant Program, New Hampshire, USA

2 Eswatini Antivenom Foundation, 5th Avenue, Lusoti Village, Simunye, Eswatini

3 Good Shepherd Hospital, Siteki, Eswatini

4 Department of Global Health Sciences, University of California, San Francisco, CA, USA; and UC Berkeley-UCSF Joint Medical Program, California, USA

5 Zulu Spear Band

6 Department of Global Health Sciences, University of California, San Francisco, CA, USA

7 NuRhymes

8 Ophirex, Inc

9 Ophirex, Inc; and The Queen Elizabeth Hospital King’s Lynn, United Kingdom

10 Center for Exploration and Travel Health, California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco, CA, USA

ACCEPTED: 17 May 2020

Iculo Ngenyoka - Snake Song

early abstract:

Introduction: In Eswatini, rural populations experience unnecessary snakebite inflicted injuries and deaths. Children are at the highest risk because of their small size and curious nature. This qualitative study explores the current knowledge and attitudes about snakebite, and the perceptions of a musical intervention, titled Iculo Ngenyoka (“Snake Song” in Zulu), as an educational tool aimed to raise awareness about snakes in the Lubombo region, Eswatini.
Methods: Semi-structured interviews with 56 community members, parent/guardian/key informant (n=11), and children aged 7-17 years old (n=45) were conducted between May-June 2018. Participants were selected from four communities within the Lubombo region. Data were analyzed using a framework analysis approach.
Results: The current sources of snake education evolved from information learned in the homesteads, schools, and personal experiences. The majority of interviewees perceived music as a culturally appropriate, engaging, and memorable method to learn about snakes. The song was perceived as an effective tool to raise awareness about snakes in the community.
Conclusions: This study is the first to explore the importance of musical interventions in educating vulnerable communities about snakes. The Iculo Ngenyoka song offers a portable medium for communicating messages about snakebite prevention, affirming the value of snakebite awareness, and promoting cooperative efforts to address the burden of snakebite envenoming in the region. The results emphasize the demand for education and the potential use of Iculo Ngenyoka and similar musical tools to raise awareness about snakebite in Eswatini. Re-translation and other customizations of structured musical education tools for children could be applied broadly if shown to be effective.