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From Port Sunlight to Mombasa

Lifebuoy is partnering Population Services International to promote hygiene in Kenyan schools. Unilever Foundation Ambassador Chris Mallaband went to see their work.

Promoting health & hygiene

In 2012, the Unilever Foundation launched the Unilever Foundation Challenge, a global initiative designed to build employees’ awareness of and engagement with the Foundation and its global partners.

Chris Mallaband, Capability Building Manager for the Supply Chain Academy at Port Sunlight in the UK, was chosen from 1,500 applicants to become a Unilever Foundation ambassador last year.

Along with five fellow global ambassadors, he won the opportunity to visit one of the Unilever Foundation’s partner programmes, see how our support is making a difference first-hand, and share his experiences.

In June of 2013, Chris visited the Mombasa region of eastern Kenya, where he learned how the Unilever Foundation, Population Services International (PSI) and Lifebuoy’s partnership is promoting health and hygiene to help save lives.

Lifebuoy’s School of Five

Over 2 million children under the age of five die worldwide from pneumonia or diarrhoea every year. But nearly 50% of these deaths could be prevented with the simple act of handwashing with soap, making it one of the most cost-effective health interventions.

As part of its Help a Child Reach Five campaign, Lifebuoy is driving behavioural change in schools by teaching children about the importance of handwashing with soap at critical occasions daily. They can then act as agents of change, spreading the message to family, friends and neighbours.

The brand’s School of Five initiative is a 21-day programme which teaches children that they need to wash their hands with soap on five key occasions during the day: before breakfast, lunch and dinner, after using the toilet, and during bathtime. Unique and critical to the programme is motivating students to practice the behaviour for 21 days consecutively to help make it stick as a habit.

Making an impact

“We visited several primary schools to see how PSI and Lifebuoy are implementing the programme,” explains Chris. “A number of parents I spoke to remarked on how they had been educated by their children who had completed the programme, and how they in turn had shared the learnings with other relatives and neighbours.

“The big learning for me was that this type of intervention succeeds or fails on the basis of the strength and quality of the relationships between Unilever brands like Lifebuoy, the Foundation partner – in this case PSI - and the relevant government department in the country where you’re trying to achieve traction,” Chris adds.

“All three need to be aligned and working collaboratively, and getting government permission, and then their ongoing support for thorough and effective implementation, is particularly vital.

“In Mombasa, it was clear that PSI had worked closely with both the Ministry for Health and the Ministry for Education to gain strong support for the programme, and were keen to see it be further developed and scaled up across Kenya.”

In Kenya and Zimbabwe alone, the partnership with PSI has reached over a million people. The Unilever Foundation, Lifebuoy and PSI partnership will continue to expand its programmes to help achieve Lifebuoy’s mission of improving the handwashing behaviour of one billion people by 2015 in line with the United Nations Millennium Development Goal 4.

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