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Unilever: Saving Lives Through Promotion of WASH

Unilever’s Lifebuoy soap brand has developed programs to improve handwashing in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Latin America.

Overview

Unilever’s Lifebuoy soap brand aims, through targeted programs, to improve the handwashing behavior of 1 billion people in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Latin America, including school children and mothers with newborns.

Handwashing with soap is proven to reduce diarrhoeal disease and pneumonia – the world’s two leading causes of deaths in children under the age of 5.

The company’s safe drinking water initiatives are promoted through the Unilever range of water purifiers, while the company’s Domestos brand helps people gain access to hygienic toilets.

Unilever’s approach has been effective not only in saving lives but also driving increased sales growth, enabling the company to invest more in researching and developing innovations – such as Lifebuoy’s patented germ protection technology, Activ Natural Shield.

Country(ies) where the intervention is taking place

Indonesia, India and South Africa.

Lead Organization

Unilever.

Who is involved?

WaterAid, Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC).

Objectives

Unilever’s Lifebuoy soap brand aims, through targeted programs, to improve the handwashing behavior of 1 billion people in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Latin America, including school children and mothers with newborns.

Workplace Setting

Communities, workplaces, schools, other.

Scope of intervention

Communities.

Which elements of WASH are covered?

Hand washing with water and soap; safe drinking water; clean, safe toilets.

Which elements of the Framework for Business Action on WASH are covered?

Taking action.

Methodology and tools that have been developed or are planned

Since 2010, the company has made strong progress in developing models which more than halve the cost per contact. Partnerships with local NGOs and governments have been critical to handwashing with soap behavior change models. The company is now exploring new approaches such as digital based behavior change approaches which could unlock greater scale if they can be proven to drive behavior change. Reaching local communities in ways that enable success and scale is an on-going area of innovation, given that local circumstances vary and that the model needs tailoring in each new setting.

Unilever’s approach has been effective not only in saving lives but also driving increased sales growth, enabling the company to invest more in researching and developing innovations – such as Lifebuoy’s patented germ protection technology, Activ Natural Shield.

Government partners and/or the local policy environment

Partnerships with governments and local organizations are critical to scaling up Unilever’s programs and enable the company to continuously improve the quality of implementation, making hygiene education and sanitation interventions sustainable over the long term. By tapping into existing on-ground networks and expertise the company can also reduce costs and reach more people.

In Kenya, Lifebuoy worked with PSI Kenya and the Kenyan Ministry of Health to integrate Lifebuoy’s School of 5 handwashing program into their School Health Plan for the country. Kenyan Ministry of Health officials were involved with the training and monitoring of the School of 5 demonstrating their commitment to the program. The success of the partnership has resulted in the Ministry showing interest in collaborating further with PSI across other geographies in Kenya, using the School of 5 program to address handwashing education needs.

In order to create the right enabling environment the company is also engaging in public policy debate at local and global levels to raise the profile of WASH issues and ensure that they receive the resources and attention they deserve.

Outcomes, successes and ongoing challenges

183 million people reached through Lifebuoy’s handwashing behavior-change campaigns, currently active in 16 countries.

Lifebuoy NeoNatal program, rolled out since 2013 reaches new mothers and birth attendants with hygiene education in Indonesia, India and South Africa.

55 million people provided with safe drinking water from Pureit, which aims to provide 150 billion liters of safe drinking water by 2020.

Results from a clinical trial in Mumbai demonstrating use of soap evidenced a 25% reduction in incidences of diarrhoea among children aged five, a 19% reduction in acute respiratory infections, a 46% reduction in eye infections and improved school attendance.

Over 25 million euros spent on handwashing program development and deployment plus evaluation studies

Handwashing, sanitation (toilet) and water purification programs implemented in more than 25 countries across Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Links to learn more

https://www.everywomaneverychild.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/EWEC_Unilever.pdf

https://www.everywomaneverychild.org/commitment/unilever/

Contact

Jonathan Gill (Global Partnership Manager, Unilever)

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