Date Published: 28 March 2020

Handwashing campaign targets a billion people worldwide

A global campaign to encourage people to wash their hands using soap and to disinfect surfaces regularly has been launched today. This public information programme funded by the UK government in partnership with Unilever is to address concerns about the spread of coronavirus around the world including in developing countries. The advice to wash hands with soap and to disinfect surfaces is intended to reach a billion people.

Financial support for the campaign, which will also provide over 20 million hygiene products to locations in the developing world where santitation is lacking, includes funding of up to £50 million each from the UK Department for International Development and Unilever.

In a recent statement1 Unilever explained that this support is essential to prevent the spread of coronavirus in the developing world and that it will also help to limit its further potential spread in general. It is expected that tackling coronavirus in developing countries will also reduce its potential on-going impact on the global economy and travel. It has been reported2 that a total of £544 million pounds of aid from the UK government is being used to help slow the spread of the virus in developing countries.

UK Government International Development Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan said1:

" Health experts have said washing your hands regularly and staying away from other people are the most effective ways to stop this virus from spreading and to save lives.
_ Many people in the poorest countries lack access to basic hand washing products, such as soap, or are not aware of the urgent need to change their behaviour. The UK Government's partnership with Unilever, will make a real difference, helping to protect both developing countries and the UK from further infections

Advice to "Wash your hands frequently" has also been issued by the World Health Organization (WHO)3.

This mass awareness campaign will include material on TV, radio and print, social and digital media to help change people's behaviour in countries across Africa and Asia, such as Kenya, Ghana and Bangladesh. The style of the information will be adapted to present the messages most effectively in specific locations.

The initiative will be led by Unilever's hygiene brands Domestos bleach and Lifebuoy soap, which have been driving large scale hygiene behaviour change programmes for decades. It will support British and international NGOs and other partners to tackle the spread of coronavirus by:

  • increasing access to hygiene products;
  • a mass public awareness campaign about the importance of handwashing; and
  • a hygiene behaviour change programme.

This will also be supported by the expertise of leading academics, including from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, to analyse progress and help to ensure that the programme is directed most effectively.

Also in the News:

Hand sanitiser plant to be built in 10 days to make 1 million bottles / month - 25 Mar '20

Responses to devastating floods and mudslide affecting parts of Freetown, Sierra Leone - 17 Aug '17

Violence putting children at risk in the Greater Kasai, DRC - 25 May '17

FDA Regulation for Food Safety during Transportation (USA) - 5 Apr '16

New ultrasonic device to improve medical instrument hygiene - 16 Sep '15

Research finds superbug resistance protein - 28 Nov '13

Desperate conditions for cholera patients in Haiti - 12 Mar '13

Copper restricts the spread of global antibiotic-resistant infections - 4 Dec '12

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