GLOBAL HANDWASHING DAY

Making universal handwashing a way of life

Handwashing is the single most cost-effective way of stopping child deaths.

In Summary
  • If everyone washed with soap before eating and after using the toilet, each person would require about 20 bars of soap every year.
  • However, consumption levels are far below this with 1.5 billion people using less than eight bars of soap per year.

Every 23 seconds a child dies from either pneumonia or diarrhoea worldwide.

So, what do we do? We know that access to safe water, adequate sanitation, and proper hygiene education – or WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) – can reduce illness and death and have an impact on poverty reduction and socio-economic development. The simple act of handwashing, for example, is the single most cost-effective way of stopping child deaths.

It can reduce the incidences of pneumonia by 23 percent and diarrhoea by up to 45 percent. When more people use soap regularly and have access to proper sanitation, the impact on health is significant. In fact, if everyone followed ideal handwashing habits – washing with soap before eating and after using the toilet – each person would require approximately 20 bars of soap every year.

However, consumption levels are far below this with 1.5 billion people using less than eight bars of soap per year – this clearly shows the magnitude of the task facing the world in terms of driving the WASH agenda.

While progress is being made on the WASH agenda with two of the Sustainable Development Goals clearly calling this out (SDG3 – Good Health and Hygiene, and SDG6 – Clean Water and Sanitation) more needs to be done. To address this challenge, we need the private sector, the public sector, the social sector and the community to come together stronger than ever before to create a brighter future for our children.

Towards this end, a game-changing approach is in empowering young people to drive change. The power of young people in driving change across the world across many issues is well known. They want to be part of something meaningful and have an impact.

As we go forward together on this journey, we inspire each one of you today, on Global Handwashing Day, to give a high five to a person next to you to celebrate GHD – a High5 transcends all barriers of language and culture. It’s a sign of celebration – and most importantly, a sign of clean confident hands. It’s a way of life.

For themselves, for their community and the world. Their connectedness, their collaboration and their sense of community are what’s going to make a big difference. In Kenya, Unilever’s Lifebuoy has been partnering with the HEROES4CHANGE programme to drive large-scale handwashing education programmes harnessing the untapped power of good of young university students. These young people have high social capital in the communities they come from and they are known in their communities for being passionate about creating lasting social impact.

The project works off this insight and is a social-mobilisation model, leveraging the power of young people, engaging them through digital social platforms such as WhatsApp, Twitter and Facebook to train them and then getting them to deploy handwashing behaviour change programmes across Kenya.

The first phase of this programme was deployed in 2017, with 100 young heroes reaching more than 100,000 children. Following its success, in 2019, 500 heroes were recruited and reached 700,000 children, teaching them the life-saving habit of handwashing.

The success of this programme has now inspired organisations such as Safaricom and digital behaviour change platforms such as U-AFYA (a DfID and Unilever-funded partnership) to join the model. As more partners join this programme, its scale and impact in driving handwashing behaviour change will increase dramatically.

Another aspect of this journey is to constantly raise awareness of the importance of handwashing with soap to prevent disease. A major event to do this is the Global Handwashing Day that is celebrated every year on October 15.

Across the world, 200 million people take part in celebrating GHD in more than 100 countries. Lifebuoy is a founding partner of the Global Handwashing Partnership, which has supported GHD from its outset. Lifebuoy has been celebrating GHD in Kenya for some years now and we celebrate GHD by committing once more to the cause of helping every child reach the age of five and to do what it takes with our partners to move faster and with greater impact on this journey.

Globally, Lifebuoy has reached more than one billion people through handwashing programmes and TV reach and today, we celebrate this amazing achievement.

As we go forward together on this journey, we inspire each one of you today, on Global Handwashing Day, to give a high five to a person next to you to celebrate GHD – a High5 transcends all barriers of language and culture. It’s a sign of celebration – and most importantly, a sign of clean confident hands. It’s a way of life.

Marketing director, Unilever