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Lifebuoy leads pledge to help children reach their fifth birthday

Campaign to promote handwashing among children to celebrate Global Handwashing Day.

Mumbai, 15 October 2012 – Nitin Paranjpe, CEO & MD, Hindustan Unilever Limited and noted film actress Kajol led a country-wide hand hygiene awareness campaign today in Mumbai to celebrate the Global Handwashing Day (GHD). They spoke to children about the need for washing hands with soap on key occasions during the day. Dr. Nirupam Bajpai, Director of the Columbia Global Centers, South Asia, and a Senior Development Advisor at the Earth Institute at Columbia University was present on the occasion. Representatives of Unicef, Save the Children and PSI (Population Services International) were also present.

Handwashing – A lifesaving habit

This year marks the fifth birthday of Global Handwashing Day – a day co-founded by Unilever’s health soap brand Lifebuoy to raise awareness of handwashing with soap as a simple but lifesaving habit. With little over three years to go until the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) including MDG 4 - to reduce the mortality of children under five by two-thirds from 1990 levels by 2015 - Lifebuoy and its partners are calling on governments, schools and communities in India to focus on handwashing with soap as an intervention that can help save millions more lives.

“All stakeholders, including the public, have a role to play in helping spread the handwashing message. Lifebuoy is asking the people of India to support the cause by pledging to ‘help a child reach their fifth birthday’ through handwashing with soap. For every pledge, we will teach the lifesaving habit to one more child through our handwashing behaviour change programmes,” said Nitin Paranjpe, CEO & Managing Director, HUL.

Diarrhoea and pneumonia are the two leading killers of children, accounting for 29% of under 5 deaths globally – claiming more than two million lives each year (estimates 2.001 million). In India, this translates to the loss of 609,000 children under the age of five, every year.

Reducing risk of diseases by handwashing

There is consistent evidence that handwashing with soap at critical times - before eating or preparing food and after using the toilet - can reduce diarrhoeal risk by 45% and acute respiratory infections (ARIs), such as pneumonia, by 23 per cent. Handwashing with soap has been cited as one of the most cost-effective interventions to prevent diarrhoeal related deaths and disease.

While most households do have access to soap, the number of people who regularly wash their hands at the right times – such as before eating and after using the toilet – is worryingly low. Across a global review of 11 countries, the average rate of handwashing after using the toilet is only 17% and this dips as low as 3% in Ghana and 1% in rural India.

Over the past two years, Lifebuoy has successfully changed the handwashing behaviour of 48 million people worldwide – towards its goal to reach one billion people by 2015. In India alone, Lifebuoy has reached nearly 30 million people over 2010 and 2011. Lifebuoy aims to bring Global Handwashing Day to a wider audience and influence government policy, to make hygiene behaviour change education part of every school curricula.

Changing handwashing behaviour

Lifebuoy has been promoting hand hygiene awareness among children in India on Global Handwashing Day each year since 2008. Every year, employees of Hindustan Unilever Limited (HUL) go out to schools to promote handwashing. This year more than 2000 HUL employees are reaching out to children in 38 cities and towns across India.

Pledges can be made at Lifebuoy’s Facebook page Facebook.com/Lifebuoy. See the Facebook page for more details.

For more information, interviews or images, please contact Email: mediacentre.hul@unilever.com. Telephone: Prasad Pradhan - 022 39832429, R Ram - 022 39832413.

About Hindustan Unilever Limited

Hindustan Unilever Limited (HUL) is India's largest Fast Moving Consumer Goods company touching the lives of two out of three Indians. HUL works to create a better future every day. We help people feel good, look good and get more out of life with brands and services that are good for them and good for others.

About Lifebuoy

Lifebuoy is India’s largest selling soap brand (by volume) from Hindustan Unilever Limited (HUL). It has been synonymous with health and hygiene since it first landed on Indian shores in 1895 at Bombay harbour. It has been spreading the message of health and hygiene for the last 100 years, and over two thirds of India’s households use Lifebuoy at least once a year. The famous Lifebuoy jingle “Tandurusti ki raksha karta hai Lifebuoy, Lifebuoy hai jahan tandurusti hai wahan” is the health anthem of India.

Lifebuoy lives its vision “Making a billion Indians feel safe and secure by meeting all their health and hygiene needs.” Lifebuoy’s Swasthya Chetna is the single largest rural health and hygiene educational programme ever undertaken in India. Its objective is to educate people about basic hygienic habits, including washing hands with soap. 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 Unilever Sustainable Living Plan

Unilever’s ambition is to double the size of our business, while reducing our overall environmental impact (including sourcing, consumer use and disposal). We are also committed to doing what we can to improve health, nutrition and hygiene, with a target to help more than a billion people take action to improve their health and well-being, as well as sourcing all our agricultural raw materials sustainably by 2020. All of these goals are itemised in more than 50 time-based targets in our Unilever Sustainable Living Plan.

About Global Handwashing Day

This 15th October is Global Handwashing Day’s fifth birthday. Celebrated in over 100 countries, Global Handwashing Day is an annual awareness day which aims to put the global spotlight on handwashing with soap as a lifesaving habit.

Unilever, through its Lifebuoy brand, co-founded Global Handwashing Day in 2008 with the Public Private Partnership for Handwashing with Soap (PPPHW) alongside UNICEF, P&G, USAID, the Work Bank Water and Sanitation Programme, US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and the Academy for Educational Development.

  1. Latest U.N. Report dated 13 September, 2012: Accelerating progress on child survival since 2000
  2. UNICEF, June 2012: Pneumonia and diarrhoea - Tackling the deadliest diseases for the world’s poorest children
  3. CHERG 2010. Sandy Cairncross, Caroline Hunt, Sophie Boisson, Kristof Bostoen, Val Curtis, Isaac CH Fung, and Wolf-Peter Schmidt Water, sanitation and hygiene for the prevention of diarrhoea.Int. J. Epidemiol. 2010 39: i193-i205.
  4. Rabie, T and Curtis, V. (2006): Handwashing and risk of respiratory infections: a quantitative systematic review. Tropical Medicine and International Health, 11(3), 258-267.
  5. Cairncross, S. Valdmanis V. 2006. Water supply, sanitation and hygiene promotion. Chapter 41. In. Disease Control Priorities in Developing Countries. Second Edition. Edt. Jameson et al 2006. The World Bank. Washington DC: National Institutes of Health.
  6. vi) Valerie A. Curtis, Lisa O. Danquah and Robert V. Aunger (2009); Planned, motivated and habitual hygiene behaviour: An Eleven Country Review
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