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Lifebuoy raising awareness and promoting behaviour change!

Reducing diarrhoeal and respiratory disease through handwashing!

South African children giving high fives

The Lifebuoy brand vision is to make people feel safe and secure by meeting their health and hygiene needs. In 2012, The Lifebuoy ‘Help a Child Reach 5’ campaign was launched which aims to educate underprivileged communities around the world that handwashing with soap is one of the most effective and low cost ways to prevent these infections.

The programme makes use of Unilever’s “Five levers of change” model, a set of principles, which, if applied consistently, increases the likelihood of creating a lasting impact and positively changing one’s handwashing behaviour.

‘Help a Child Reach 5’ has two core pillars; changing the behaviour of schoolchildren and their parents via an interactive schools solution and affecting the behaviour of new mothers and health care workers via a neonatal programme.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) diarrhoeal disease is the second leading cause of death in children under the age of five. Every year, 1.7 million children under the age of five die from infections such as diarrhoea and pneumonia.

Recognising the need for developing a healthy handwashing routine, Lifebuoy implemented a 21-day behaviour change programme, as research has shown that for behaviour to turn into a habit it needs to be practiced for at least 21 days.

The initiative forms part of Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan, which has set a bold target to improve the health and wellbeing of more than a billion people by 2020 and is fully supported at the highest levels within the business.

Through this programme, teachers and Lifebuoy promoters teach children in junior school to wash their hands with soap at five key occasions: after going to the toilet, before breakfast, lunch and dinner, and while bathing; secondly, they are taught the correct method of hand washing. This is done through interactive educational activities, like song writing, games, comic books and pledges.

Lifebuoy targets schoolchildren for three reasons: Children are particularly at risk from hygiene related illness. Children are very effective change agents – when they begin primary school, they start to practice many new habits independently therefore reaching them at this influential moment in their lives maximises the opportunity to create a healthy habit which lasts a lifetime. Finally, children take the message home, affecting change in their own families and communities. By educating the child, Lifebuoy ultimately reaches the whole family with the handwashing message.

As the world’s largest behaviour change programme to date, the “Help a Child Reach 5’ programme has so far reached over 250 million people globally and 8.8 million locally. In doing so, Lifebuoy is contributing to the achievement of one of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals – Global Goal Number 3: Good Health and Well-Being, which is set out to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.

In addition, Unilever celebrates Global Handwashing Day on 15 October, an international initiative introduced by key stakeholders to increase awareness around the benefits of developing a healthy handwashing routine. Lifebuoy aims to promote Unilever’s vision to help build a brighter future for all South Africans by bringing Global Handwashing Day to a wider audience and to influence government policy in order to make hygiene behaviour change education part of every school curricula.

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