Ground-breaking partnership will raise awareness of the power of immunisation and of handwashing with soap to accelerate child survival efforts in India.
Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and Lifebuoy, Unilever’s leading health soap brand are today launching an innovative partnership to protect children under five from childhood illnesses and premature death. By promoting handwashing with soap and immunisation together - two of the most cost effective child survival interventions - the partnership aims to improve and save many young lives in India.
Announced at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2017 in Davos, Switzerland, the partnership will be supported by the Government of Netherlands through Gavi’s Matching Fund mechanism and by the Government of India, where the initial project to implement a joint approach to promote healthier behaviours will take place.
Pneumonia and diarrhoea are two leading causes of child deaths worldwide. India has the highest number of pneumonia and diarrhoea deaths among children in the world with nearly 300,000 children dying from these illnesses. Such preventable diseases are also often attributed to lack of handwashing with soap at critical occasions. While progress is being made with the introduction of rotavirus and pneumococcal vaccines as well as hygiene programmes, more needs to be done to accelerate the fight against these diseases.
“Diarrhoea and pneumonia are two of the most devastating preventable illnesses which claim the lives of millions of children worldwide”, said Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi. “Integrated interventions that begin at birth, including clean water and vaccines, can protect against these diseases. Therefore I welcome the Gavi and Lifebuoy partnership, which is a great example of public and private sectors working together to help prevent millions of unnecessary deaths and save lives of the most vulnerable children”, he added.
The three-year partnership will leverage Unilever’s expertise in behaviour change, marketing capability, and financial support along with Gavi’s supply, health systems strengthening investments and Alliance networks to deliver behaviour change interventions and promote the benefits of vaccination, handwashing with soap and good hygiene to key target audiences in India. This will have a positive impact on multiple Sustainable Development Goals including good health and well-being (Goal 3), clean water and sanitation (Goal 6) and it will help revitalise global partnerships for sustainable development (Goal 17).
Samir Singh, Global Executive Vice President, Skin Cleansing, Unilever, said, “Lifebuoy has reached over 65 million people through handwashing behaviour change programmes in India. We are very happy to collaborate with GAVI and through this association hope to create a more holistic approach to fighting preventable diseases among children. Through our various awareness generation and education programmes as well as through our valued partners we hope to continue to teach school children, new mothers, and the community at large, the practice of handwashing with soap at key occasions and make it a habit, helping more children reach their fifth birthday.”
Kajol Devgan, Help A Child Reach 5 Handwashing Ambassador, said, “As a mother and an actor, I am proud to be associated with a campaign that stresses on the importance of handwashing to prevent needless child deaths. I have advocated the importance of handwashing on many international as well as local platforms. While advocacy is important, it is also equally important to back that up with targeted programmes especially at the grass roots level. Lifebuoy’s Help A Child Reach 5 has been able to do this really well and is continuing to do so by accelerating its efforts every year.
Lifebuoy runs one of the world’s largest hygiene promotion programmes which aims to change the handwashing behaviours of a billion people by 2020. The partnership will be rooted in existing interventions that leverage Lifebuoy’s approach to behaviour change and contribute to further making handwashing with soap at key occasions an ingrained habit whilst accelerating vaccine uptake. Unilever and Gavi will measure results of the behaviour change programme with an aim to further scale up the integrated approach.
Unilever’s financial contribution will be matched by the Government of Netherlands, as part of the Gavi Matching Fund mechanism, which will double the resources put toward the partnership, in turn driving greater impact in the lives of children and their families.
Notes to editors
As the world’s leading health soap, Lifebuoy aims to make a difference by creating accessible hygiene products (soap) and promoting healthy hygiene habits. We have reached out to 63 million people in India since 2010 through our handwashing programmes.
Lifebuoy has been synonymous with health and hygiene since it first landed on Indian shores in 1895. It has been spreading the message of health and hygiene for over 100 years, and over two thirds of India’s households use Lifebuoy at least once a year. Lifebuoy’s Swasthya Chetna programme was the single largest rural health and hygiene educational programme ever undertaken in India. In the year 2006, the Indian Postal Department released a special Lifebuoy Swasthya Chetna Postal Cover in recognition of Lifebuoy’s efforts to promote health and hygiene awareness in India.
About Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance
Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance is a public-private partnership committed to saving children's lives and protecting people's health by increasing equitable use of vaccines in lower-income countries.
The Vaccine Alliance brings together developing country and donor governments, the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the World Bank, the vaccine industry, technical agencies, civil society, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other private sector partners. Gavi uses innovative finance mechanisms, including co-financing by recipient countries, to secure sustainable funding and adequate supply of quality vaccines. Since 2000, Gavi has contributed to the immunisation of nearly 580 million children and the prevention of approximately 8 million future deaths. Learn more about Gavi at