Reducing diarrhoeal and respiratory disease through handwashing

The threat of child mortality due to diarrhoeal and respiratory diseases still looms large over India. Hindustan Unilever Limited is addressing this challenge by focusing on its water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) initiatives.

In India, around 0.9 million children under the age of five die due to diarrhoeal and respiratory diseases. Handwashing with soap has been cited as one of the most cost-effective solutions to improve health & hygiene, and reduce infant mortality. Our brands such as Lifebuoy, Domex, and Pureit have led impactful programmes on the importance of health & hygiene.

In 2019, we extended support to 1.6 million people through Lifebuoy’s on-ground handwashing behaviour change initiatives. We reached out to over 72 million people in India to encourage and sustain good handwashing behaviour since the inception of our Unilever Sustainable Living Plan in 2010.

Our on-ground behaviour change programme and other interventions have helped one billion people globally, to improve their handwashing habits.

Lifebuoy partnerships

With the aim of expanding the handwashing behaviour programme, our purpose-driven brand Lifebuoy, partnered with Global Alliance for Vaccine Initiative (GAVI), Project Hope, Power of Nutrition and Bharat Scouts and Guides. Through these partnerships, we spread the message of using soap at key times during the day to improve health and hygiene.

Promoting handwashing and immunisation: :

Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and Lifebuoy, launched an innovative partnership in 2017 called ‘Safal Shuruaat’, to protect children under the age of five, from illnesses and premature death in 14 districts of Uttar Pradesh. By promoting the most critical and cost-effective child survival interventions of handwashing with soap and immunisation together, the partnership aims to improve the health of many more children. Under this programme we have engaged with people in rural areas through a series of short films, shown door-to-door on hand-held devices. The campaign also uses gaming content and leverages the power of digital by sending mobile reminders integrated with Lifebuoy’s programme, Mobile Doctarni.

Till date, ‘Safal Shuruaat’ has reached 1.5 million people and plans to reach 2.5 million people by the end of 2020. Independent evaluation has also shown that the programme has led to a five-fold increase in handwashing with soap after defecation.

Mobile phone technology programme to change handwashing behaviour:

In 2019, we launched a partnership at the UN General Assembly between Lifebuoy and the NGO Power of Nutrition. This mobile-based behaviour change program called Mobile Doctarni reached 2.7 million mothers in India across Gujarat and Maharashtra. We aim to replicate this mobile phone technology programme across other countries as well.

Bharat Scout and Guide superheroes:

Through our (partnership with Bharat Scouts and Guides BS&G), more than two lakh guides and scouts in the states of Maharashtra and Rajasthan have been appointed as handwashing heroes in 2019 to promote this lifesaving habit within their local communities.

Each handwashing hero is trained on the importance of using soap and washing hands on critical occasions such as before eating and after using the toilet. They are equipped with the necessary skills to share these learnings with others, encouraging the practice of using soap to wash their hands to inculcate good hygiene practices.

Project Hope – Mother’s Magic Hand:

Driving handwashing behaviour amongst mothers, our unique partnership with the government allowed us to train 1,199 of their frontline health workers in Odisha on Lifebuoy’s mothers’ program. These ambassadors went further and educated 275,303 mothers and their families on the Mother’s Magic Hands programme.

Global Handwashing Day

Each year on 15th October, millions of people worldwide take part in celebrating the Global Handwashing Day (GHD). Our Lifebuoy brand is a founding partner of the Global Handwashing Partnership.

To mark the Global Handwashing Day in 2019, we enlisted the help of close to 100 influencers with a combined reach of over 3.6 million people, to amplify our message of handwashing with soap. The influencers included ‘Help A Child Reach 5’ ambassadors like Kajol in India, cricket star Shakib Al Hasan in Bangladesh, and popular actor Titi Kamal in Indonesia.

In India, 70 HUL employee-volunteers received training and visited 117 schools in order to help spread the handwashing message to 30,260 children. Lifebuoy India has also partnered with Apollo Pharmacy to encourage people to improve their handwashing habits.

Providing safe drinking water

67% of Indian households do not treat water before consumption which increases the incidence of water-borne diseases.

Three in ten people do not have access to safe drinking water which leaves 844 million people at the risk of life-threatening waterborne illnesses. We strive to provide access to safe drinking water with the aim of reducing the risk of life-threatening diseases like diarrhoea.

Stunting, a condition that is partly caused by the consumption of unsafe water affects 159 million children under the age of five. Flooding and droughts contribute to the lack of access to safe water.

Pureit, our innovative household water purifier and a purpose-led brand, is leading our movement to provide safe drinking water to millions of people. With its best-in-class technology that purifies and enriches water, Pureit has provided over 94.8 billion litres of safe drinking water in India.  

Pureit’s health and business impact:

Pureit offers a range of water purification solutions across three models of technology:

  • Gravity (Purifies water without the need for electricity)
  • UV (Ultraviolet water purification, which disinfects bacteria from water)
  • RO (Reverse Osmosis, a water treatment process that removes contaminants by using pressure to force water molecules through a semi-permeable membrane, which filters out the contaminants)

Adding the traditional goodness of copper to pure water

Copper’s anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties help neutralise toxins and remain a popular advocate in Ayurveda medicine. Drinking copper-infused water enables the proper functioning of different organs and supports mineral processes.

Our Pureit Copper+ RO model, introduced in 2019, uses smart Copper Charge Technology™ to ensure just the right amount of copper in every glass of water.

Pureit partnerships with MFIs

Access to clean drinking water is a challenge for people at the bottom of the income pyramid. Our tie-ups with Microfinance Institutions (MFIs) in Tamil Nadu, Punjab, and Kerala have further enabled us to provide safe drinking water to low-income households. In 2019, we helped bring safe water to over 40,000 people through partnerships with MFIs like ESAF, Midland, IVDP and Muthoot.

Improving access to sanitation

The United Nations report that six out of ten people globally do not have access to safe sanitation facilities. This forces nearly 892 million to defecate in the open and statistics have shown that one in three people globally, are at risk of contracting diseases due to the lack of access to a clean toilet.

The Domex Toilet Academy (DTA) launched a unique market-based model in 2014 to improve sanitation across India. It trained 600 micro-entrepreneurs and masons to help build and maintain toilets. This initiative not only impacted over one million people, but also provided access to micro-financing opportunities, besides creating a need for toilets in low-income households.

Safe sanitation can protect people from disease and indignity. DTA further partnered with PSI India to shift focus from ‘Access’ to ‘Usage’. Through this behaviour change model, more than 0.7 million people in 300 villages in Chittoor, Andhra Pradesh increased their toilet usage and cleaning.

Last year, Domex extended its ‘Pick Up The Brush’ campaign in Tamil Nadu featuring cinema superstar Kamal Haasan in an attempt to encourage everyone to hold themselves accountable to keep toilets clean. With the aim of helping start-ups in the sanitation space to pitch, launch, and further their business models, we also continue to support their ‘Toilet Accelerator’ programme.

To further our agenda on sustaining open defecation-free status in 2019, we partnered with the Swachh Bharat Mission - Grameen team from the Jal Shakti Ministry (erstwhile Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation) to create awareness driving campaigns for Swachh Survekshan Grameen.

Swachh Aadat, Swachh Bharat

India faces significant challenges in the areas of water, sanitation, and hygiene.

Our ‘Swachh Aadat, Swachh Bharat’ programme is in line with Government of India’s ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (Clean India Mission)’ to promote good health and hygiene practices. In 2019, the programme continued to promote these practices by stressing the need to adopt three clean habits:

  1. Washing hands five times a day.
  2. Using a toilet for defecation.
  3. Adopting safe drinking water practices.

Swachhata Doot (Messenger of Cleanliness):

More than 4,000 employees from 25 HUL factories have embraced the new role of ‘Agents of Change’ (Swachhata Doot). They educate and motivate their communities to adopt better WASH habits. Since 2015, our volunteers have reached out to 21 million people through this programme.

Swachhata Curriculum:

HUL is the founding partner of Chief Minister of Maharashtra’s Village Transformation Mission. We also contribute to the VSTM through its Swachhata (Cleanliness) Curriculum. This curriculum teaches students of classes 1-5 about the three clean habits in a fun and engaging manner over a 21-day period in partnership with the local government, and the Society for Technology and Action for Rural Advancement (TARA). The programme has reached 1.1 million students so far.

Suvidha - The Community Hygiene Centre:

HUL’s ‘Suvidha Centre’ is a first-of-its-kind urban water, hygiene and sanitation community centre in the slums of Mumbai that provides drinking water, sanitation, handwashing, shower facilities, and laundry services at an affordable cost. The centre uses circular economy principles to reduce water use. It was built in partnership with the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai, Pratha Samajik Sanstha, and United Way Mumbai. Currently, we have three operational centres catering to over 7,500 people in the slums of Mumbai.

Start a Little Good:

To inspire every Indian to take action, we launched the ‘Start a Little Good’ campaign in 2019. It urges consumers to take small actions in the areas of water conservation, plastic waste management, and teaching good hygiene habits.

Improving oral care

In 2019, we celebrated the World Oral Health Day with our team members and volunteers who encouraged good brushing habits through school programs and distributed brushing essentials such as toothbrush and toothpaste to children.

The programme impacted 45,612 students across multiple locations such as Dharavi in Mumbai, Konkanipada in Dahisar-Mumbai, Pankhada near Vadodara-Gujarat, and Takarda in Rajasthan. Our School Contact Program has reached out and encouraged 8,806 children in Delhi to brush twice a day.

Improving self-esteem

In India, 6 out of 10 girls say that they are not confident about the way they look. A lack of confidence impacts self-esteem, and this hinders the girls and women from reaching their full potential in their careers, their futures, and their health.

Our beauty and personal care brand, Dove, strongly believes that every person deserves to feel beautiful and is on a mission to ensure that the next generation of young people build a healthy relationship with the way they look. In India, we have reached out to 1.5 million girls from 2014-2019 in partnership with Fountainhead and World Association of Girl Guides & Girl Scouts. In India, our target is to reach out to two million girls by 2020, empowering them with education about self-esteem.

In 2019, Dove partnered with UNICEF at ‘Women Deliver’, the largest conference on the Health and Rights of Girls & Women, to provide self-esteem education to ten million young people across three countries (India, Indonesia, and Brazil). In India, over three years, UNICEF facilitators and teachers will be trained to deliver body confidence education material to eight states.

In order to scale the program and roll it out across India, we are currently working with UNICEF & Centre of Appearance Research (Body Image Experts) to develop new teaching material on empowering girls and boys with self-esteem and body confidence programmes.

Asha Daan

Launched in 1976 on a 72,500 square feet area in Mumbai, we supported Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity to set up Asha Daan, a home for the abandoned, challenged, HIV-positive, and the destitute. We continue to maintain the premises till date and have taken care of over 400 people which includes infants, destitute men and women, and HIV-positive patients.

Currently, we are working towards re-developing the home to take better care of the people by providing them with better facilities.

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