Unilever Foundation Ambassador for UNICEF 2015

The Unilever Foundation Ambassador Challenge is a company-wide initiative designed to build employees’ awareness and engagement with the Unilever Foundation and five of its global partners. The selected employees get the chance to see first hand the positive social impact Unilever’s support has on people’s lives and how that support contributes to the company’s growth strategy.

Positive social impact

Harsh Mishra, Area Sales and Customer Manager, Hindustan Unilever Limited and the newly appointed Unilever Foundation Ambassador for the partnership with UNICEF, visited various UNICEF-supported programmes in Kenya that are changing people’s behaviours around sanitation and, in turn, helping to save lives.

Watch the short video about Harsh’s visit and see the positive social impact and business benefit that’s being created by the partnership between the Unilever Foundation, Domestos and UNICEF.

The sanitation crisis

Today, the lack of proper sanitation – a basic human right – is putting the lives of 2.5 billion people worldwide at risk of life-threatening diseases on a day-to-day basis. Of these, 1 billion defecate in the open.

And in Kenya, over 61% of the rural population does not have access to adequate sanitation, and 17% of the rural population practise open defecation.

As Harsh says: “These people face challenges every day as they are affected by preventable diseases such as diarrhoea and cholera due to lack of proper hygiene and sanitation practices. Our partnership leverages our collective strengths and by supporting UNICEF we are helping to drive tangible behaviour change related to people’s sanitation practices and make a meaningful difference in people’s lives.

Changing behaviour, improving health

During his visit, Harsh had the opportunity to meet people from different walks of life, including public officials, community health workers, local residents and school children.

Most of villages he visited have been through or are undergoing ‘triggering’ – a core component of the Community Approaches to Total Sanitation (CATS) programme that UNICEF supports – which is all about changing behaviours. As residents map out where in the village they go to the toilet, this shocks the community into realising that defecating in the open contributes to the spread of preventable diseases. UNICEF is working closely with the government of Kenya to scale up CATS in an effort to engage with those hardest to reach.

Once people fully understand the value of toilets, the community starts building them, often with local materials.

In Kitui county – where Harsh spent most of the time – over 1,100 villages have been triggered and more than 1,000 of these are now open defecation free (ODF). The county plans to be 100% ODF by the end of 2015. In the village of Kathome, which has been declared ODF since 2014, residents report less sickness now that people have their own household toilets.

Beyond health

The investment in sanitation not only helps improve people’s overall health, but also their quality of life. It helps children stay in school and provides them with much needed dignity and safety, especially women and girls. These programmes have also made great progress in boosting local economies by training sanitation marketers to provide cost-effective solutions and products.

Proud to be transforming lives

Since 2012, the partnership between the Unilever Foundation, Domestos and UNICEF has resulted in 1.32 million people gaining improved access to a toilet and 655,000 people living in ODF communities.

In 2015, the Unilever Foundation and Domestos committed to supporting UNICEF’s sanitation programme for an additional three years through to the end of 2017. This partnership will contribute to supporting Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan sanitation target to help 25 million people gain improved access to a toilet by promoting the benefits of clean toilets and making toilets accessible by 2020.

Summing up his time in Kenya, Harsh says: “I had the privilege to see first hand how this Unilever partnership is transforming lives while building our business. Together we are creating a brighter future for generations to come and I am proud of the difference we are making.”

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