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Covid-19 handwashing campaign to target a billion people worldwide


Unilever is working with the UK government to fund a global programme to urgently tackle the spread of coronavirus.

Schoolgirl washing hands

We have joined forces with the UK government’s Department for International Development to target a billion people worldwide with a Covid-19 handwashing campaign.

The initiative – backed by £50 million each from Unilever and UK aid – will support programmes aimed at raising awareness and changing behaviour, to make sure people are washing their hands with soap regularly and disinfecting surfaces.

It will also provide over 20 million hygiene products in the developing world, including in areas where there is little or no sanitation, or poor health systems.

Such support is vital to stop the spread of the disease in the developing world and will help limit its spread in the UK. Tackling the disease in developing countries will also reduce its potential future impact on the global economy and travel.

Underpinned by vast expertise

The mass awareness campaign will run across TV, radio and print as well as social media to help change people’s behaviour in countries across Africa and Asia, like Kenya, Ghana and Bangladesh. Messages will be tailored to communities in these countries to ensure they are effective.

The initiative will be led by our Domestos and Lifebuoy brands, which have been driving large-scale hygiene behaviour change programmes for decades. And it will harness the expertise of leading academics – including from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine – to analyse and ensure the programme is targeted where it has the biggest impact.

“Lifebuoy and Domestos have a proven track record of running hygiene awareness and education programmes successfully, and we hope that the work we will be able to drive jointly with UK aid will help save lives that could otherwise be impacted by coronavirus,” says Unilever CEO Alan Jope.

“As the world’s biggest soap company, we have a responsibility to help make soap and hygiene products more readily available and to use our expertise to teach people to wash their hands effectively, whichever brand they choose to use.”

“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,” adds Anne-Marie Trevelyan, the UK government’s Secretary of State for International Development.

“Many people in the poorest countries lack access to basic handwashing 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.”

Well positioned to help

Unilever’s broad range of hygiene brands in the UK and in low and middle-income countries means we are well positioned to support the UK government to step up its response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Our Lifebuoy handwashing programmes have already reached over 450 million people over the last ten years, tackling diseases like rotavirus and typhoid which spread easily through people’s hands.

Our Domestos programmes have helped 28 million people over the last eight years get improved access to toilets in schools and communities, ensuring facilities are kept clean and safe for longer.

This latest initiative with the UK government builds on a series of actions Unilever is taking to tackle the coronavirus outbreak globally.

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