Can hand washing habits improve health prospects?

In partnership with Lifebuoy, Unilever is helping 1 billion people across Asia, Africa and Latin America improve their handwashing habits by 2020.

Use soap

Around 2 million children lose their lives to preventable illnesses every year. Proper sanitation, enabled through the use of soap can help prevent the many of these deaths which are caused by diarrhoea and pneumonia. Because of this, handwashing with soap is a low-cost and highly effective way to protect children from these common causes of death.

Changing behaviour

Changing the behaviour of 1 billion people, which could prevent 600,000 child deaths every year makes this one of the biggest handwashing behaviour change programmes in the world. Focussing on school children and mothers, the programme is already demonstrating results, reducing incidences of diarrhoea from 36% to 5%, for example.

Making it fun

Comic books, animations, music and games are used to help emphasise the importance of handwashing after using the toilet and before eating. Working in schools, hospitals and clinics enables Unilever and its partners spread engaging hygiene education messages that are accessible and appealing.


Lifebuoy’s advocacy efforts on Global Hand Washing Day reached over 127 million people through social media, involving more than 5,000 employees who visited schools to teach good handwashing habits to children. Celebrity partners and helped amplify the message using the hashtag, #High5forHandwashing. By spreading the message of the importance of improving handwashing habits, Unilever and Lifebuoy are helping save lives.

This story shows how Unilever supports Goal 6: Clean Water and Sanitation, specifically Target 6.2: “By 2030, achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and end open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations.”

About Unilever

Unilever is a global business with a simple but clear purpose: to make sustainable living commonplace. On any given day, 2.5 billion people use Unilever products (spanning more than 400 brands) to feel good, look good, and get more out of life, giving Unilever a unique opportunity to build a brighter future.

Learn more about Unilever.

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