Lifebuoy and USAID partnership for newborn health

Lifebuoy and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)’s Maternal and Child Health Integrated Program (MCHIP) have announced a new public–private partnership.

Handwashing to reduce newborn mortality

Mother kisses newborn baby

The partnership aims to improve handwashing practices among birth attendants and family members in developing countries, reducing the risk of newborn deaths caused by infection. Lifebuoy’s research reveals up to two-thirds of the 3.6 million neo-natal deaths each year in the developing world could be prevented.

About 85% of such deaths are due to a combination of infection, prematurity and complications during labour. But simple, low-cost health interventions could reduce this figure by up to 70%.

How soap can help prevent infection

A recent study in Nepal found that handwashing with soap by birth attendants and mothers led to a 44% lower mortality rate for newborn babies.

Now USAID, MCHIP and Lifebuoy will define, plan and implement a low-cost behaviour change programme for handwashing that will help new mothers and health workers adopt and practise handwashing with soap at critical times.

Another important element of the partnership activities is to set up and use a monitoring system to determine the effectiveness of the intervention and improve implementation.

Changing behaviour for long-term health benefits

“At Lifebuoy, we understand the public health impact that handwashing with soap can make. As part of Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan we have made a bold commitment to change the behaviour of one billion people by 2015,” says Myriam Sidibe, Global Brand Director, Lifebuoy Social Mission.

“Persuading people to change their behaviour for long-term health benefits is difficult, and requires a sound understanding of their habits, lifestyles and environment.”

“We are proud to be working as a partner in this programme, which will create and implement effective interventions based on our collective understanding of preventing infections and saving lives.”

Pilot programmes are planned for launch in Bangladesh, Indonesia and Kenya.

The partnership between Unilever’s Lifebuoy brand, USAID and MCHIP launched in Washington DC in June 2011 as part of the Global Health Council Conference.

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