How can soap help to save sight?

Lifebuoy has teamed up with NGO Sightsavers on a hygiene behaviour change programme that’s helping to eliminate trachoma, the world’s leading cause of preventable blindness.

Lifebuoy and the fight against trachoma

Child washing his face in Africa. Karel Prinsloo/Sightsavers

The infectious eye disease is spread by poor sanitation with almost 230 million people at risk and children especially susceptible. But it can be prevented by the simple act of washing the hands and face with soap.

This initiative forms part of the brand’s social mission to bring health and hygiene to a billion people. The partnership ran a pilot last year in 10 schools in Turkana, Kenya, where almost two thirds of the population has the disease and 42% of those infected are children under nine.

Adapting Lifebuoy’s established School of 5 programme, children are encouraged to wash their hands and face regularly with soap to help reduce their exposure to the bacteria responsible for causing the disease. The aim is that children adopt new habits at school and become change agents by delivering hygiene messages to their families at home.

Behaviour change

The pilot showed a change in behaviour both at school and at home. Hand and face washing increased from 21% to 75% among children at school and from 17% to 42% among families at home.

The programme is now being scaled up to over 200 schools in Turkana and will also start in four regions in neighbouring Ethiopia during 2016 as a part of the Federal Ministry of Health’s plan to eliminate trachoma.

The ultimate aim is to reach all 53 countries where the disease is endemic. We are able to do this because we are a global company that can tailor and apply solutions locally.

Myriam Sidibe, Hygiene and Nutrition Social Mission Director, Africa, says: “This partnership is taking the proven success of the handwashing behaviour change campaigns and, for the first time, applying these lessons to implement a facewashing with soap campaign. The elimination of trachoma is within our grasp, and this simple step could significantly reduce the risk of the infection spreading.”

This collaboration is part of The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust Trachoma Initiative.

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