Unilever appeals to first ladies to scale up hand washing
New York, 23 September 2014 – As part of its mission to help more than a billion people take action to improve their health and wellbeing, Unilever, through its health soap Lifebuoy, has joined forces with Fashion 4 Development (F4D) to highlight the lifesaving power of handwashing with soap.
Today’s event aims to bring the importance of hygiene programmes for newborn survival to the attention of the influential First Ladies attending F4D’s annual First Ladies Luncheon. F4D works in partnership with the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDG), pairing diplomacy and fashion for the greater good of women and children worldwide. Each year, 6.6 million* children die before they reach their fifth birthday, of which 40%** are newborn babies.
Many of these deaths can be prevented through the simple act of handwashing with soap, a key reason instilling this habit among children as well as mothers during the neonatal period (the first 28 days of a child’s life) is critical in accelerating progress towards MDG 4, which aims to reduce child mortality.
At the First Ladies Luncheon, which takes place during the 69th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York, handwashing ambassadors of Lifebuoy’s Help a Child Reach 5 campaign – distinguished Indian actor Kajol, together with award-winning Senegalese singer Youssou N’Dour – supported handwashing with soap as a key intervention for reducing child mortality.
Both called on the influential First Ladies, diplomats and fashion VIPs including Donna Karan and Italian Vogue Editor Franca Sozzani, that attended the high level gathering to pledge their support and champion the scaling up of handwashing programmes. In particular programmes for new mothers and healthcare workers, to educate them on the importance of hygiene in preventing infections among newborn babies.
“I was overwhelmed by the fact that so many children were dying from preventable diseases and that so many of these are newborns. Handwashing with soap can make a real difference. I’m here today to urge First Ladies to take this simple, lifesaving message – wash hands with soap – to more villages, more mothers, and more children. Policymakers and governments need to take action to scale up handwashing programmes, so that every mother of a young baby and birth attendant can have access to soap,” said Kajol.
Evie Evangelou, founder and President of Fashion 4 Development said, “Lifebuoy’s Help A Child Reach 5 campaign is one that furthers our purpose to help women and children worldwide. I am thrilled to be able to give handwashing with soap the importance it deserves. I am calling on First Ladies and the fashion industry to change the way the world thinks about hand hygiene and help to save more lives.”
The event also saw Youssou N’Dour, together with Samir Singh, Hindustan Unilever’s Executive Director for Personal Care, Rajiv Shah, United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator and Jeffrey Sachs, Economist and Director of The Earth Institute at Columbia University inducted into F4D’s League of Gentlemen for their efforts to enact sustainable change in support of MDG4 to save child lives. Samir Singh said “It is a privilege to be here today.
I am delighted to be able to spread Lifebuoy’s lifesaving message across the world and to work with a brand that is committed to helping more children reach five.”
Lifebuoy has a proven model for handwashing behaviour change and since 2010 the brand has changed the hand washing behaviours of 183 million people across 16 countries, making it the world’s largest hygiene promotion program. Working with global partners such as USAID, Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP), The Global Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing with Soap (PPPHW),The Earth Institute, PSI and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), Lifebuoy is this year expanding its mission across villages in South and Southeast Asia, Africa and Latin America.
The UNGA brings together world leaders, key opinion formers and policy makers and focuses on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – the development goals to achieve by 2015. This is the third year Lifebuoy has participated in the UNGA to petition for handwashing with soap to be recognised as a key intervention to achieve MDG 4 and to be included in the post-2015 development agenda to help save lives at scale.
About the Help A Child Reach 5 campaign:
- Lifebuoy runs the world’s largest hygiene promotion program, having reached 183 million people to date.
- Handwashing with soap saves lives. Lifebuoy’s Help A Child Reach 5 campaign aims to eradicate preventable deaths from diseases like diarrhoea one village at a time, by teaching lifesaving handwashing habits.
- To drive awareness of the campaign, Lifebuoy created moving films on what it means for a child to reach the age of 5. The latest film “Tree of Life” tells a mother’s story of love, longing and loss to make a compelling case for hand washing with soap www.youtube.com/helpachildreach5
- In 2013, Lifebuoy launched its Help a Child Reach 5 handwashing campaign in Thesgora, a village in Madhya Pradesh with one of the highest rates of diarrhoea in India. Through its handwashing programmes, Lifebuoy dramatically improved children’s handwashing habits so that they now washed their hands two additional times per day.
- Lifebuoy isn’t stopping at Thesgora. It wants to expand its life-saving mission, village by village, starting with Bitobe village in Indonesia earlier this year and will continue across villages in South and Southeast Asia, Africa and Latin America.
As the world’s leading health soap, Lifebuoy aims to make a difference by creating accessible hygiene products (soap) and promoting healthy hygiene habits. With this in mind, Lifebuoy aims to change the hand washing behaviour of one billion people by 2020. Since 2010 Lifebuoy has changed the hand washing behaviours of 183 million people across 16 countries.
For more information, please visit
*Levels & Trends in Child Mortality, 2013, UN Inter-Agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation
**Newborns, reducing mortality, WHO, May 2012
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