'Lifebuoy Lifesaver - Hand Washing Program

We aim to reach 30 million people with our hand washing program by 2015, teaching them the importance of washing hand with soap 5 times a day to reduce instances of diseases such as diarrhea.

Reducing diarrhea & respiratory disease through hand washing

Soap has proven to be one of the most effective and inexpensive ways to prevent diseases. From the earliest of days, Unilever has sought to meet people’s need for good hygiene with the launch of Lifebuoy soap in the 1890’s. A soap which was launched to make “cleanliness a commonplace” is today the leading germ protection soap brand.

This leading brand has developed a clear social mission, aligned with the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan (USLP). The USLP target for hand-washing is aimed to deliver clear public health benefits. But to achieve this, we will require fundamental changes in attitude and behavior to drive change.

In Bangladesh one child dies every 2 minutes from diarrhea and the country has an infant mortality rate of 49%, which is the 5th highest in Asia. We at Unilever believe handwashing with soap is a solution to the many unfortunate deaths from these easily preventable diseases.

What is the Lifesaver program:

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Currently people wash their hands with only water as they think that visibly clean hands mean germ free hands. They do not find hand washing with soap necessary. Also, research shows that an individual needs to constantly practice a particular behavior for 21 to 50 days for it to take root.

So targeting 6 to 12 years old school children of households earning BDT 10,000 to 25,000 per month and their mothers, Lifebuoy drives the Lifesaver program across the country. With the Lifesaver program, Lifebuoy has been going to schools in Bangladesh since 2009. 

The 21 day school program designed to lead behavioral change interacts with both children and mother, with the big idea that hand washing with soap on 5 key occasions is able to reduce the incidence of diarrhea. The program, with a range of activities that would intrigue kids’ interest, also recruits teachers as strong driving agents for change and reinforces the change drivers with parents during community contacts.

The aims of lifebuoy lifesaver:

In 2011, a research was carried out in Shatkhira with a controlled and experimental group where one group went through the program while the other did not. In the experimental group the recall of 5 key occasions of handwashing was significantly higher than the controlled group (53% vs. 16%), especially in the case of bath time. This validated the impact of this program in improving hygiene.

The final endorsement for the Lifesaver program was provided by the Department for International Development (DFID), a UK Government body when in 2014 it granted Lifebuoy Lifesaver 2.2 million pounds to expand the program under the WASH agenda. This was the first time the DFID had awarded such a grant to a private organization and brand. The award recognized the importance and effectiveness of the work being conducted by Lifebuoy in Bangladesh. Lifebuoy is now using that funding to take the award winning activation to almost 250 Upazilas of the country.

We have reached 17,800,000 people (17.8 million) in Bangladesh with this life saving program and aim to reach 30 million by the end of 2015

The main factor that has contributed to the success of this project is the passion that the Lifesaver team has for this program. Every individual involved in this project shows utmost dedication for Lifesaver, which is why we have been able to reach such a large number of people in such a short time.

Armed with the communication objectives of creating awareness about the 5 key occasions of hand washing, Lifebuoy aims to change the hygiene behavior of 1 billion consumers across Asia, Africa and Latin America by 2015.

*Source: Director, Disease Control DGHS Mohakhali, Dhaka

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