Unilever and the Earth Institute today announced a new initiative to bring handwashing with soap – a lifesaving habit – to the Millennium Villages, a project that works with nearly 500,000 people in rural villages, across 10 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Prof. Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and Paul Polman, CEO Unilever, signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in New York today on the fifth anniversary of Global Handwashing Day.
The partnership supports Unilever’s goal to deliver on one of its commitments under its Sustainable Living Plan – to help more than one billion people take action to improve their health and well-being. Over the past two years, Unilever has successfully changed the handwashing behaviour of 50 million people in Africa and South-Asia, through its leading soap brand Lifebuoy and partnerships with Population Services International (PSI) and UNICEF established through the Unilever Foundation.
Paul Polman, Unilever CEO said: “The big issues the world is facing require new approaches, new business models and new partnerships. Responsible businesses must take a more active leadership role. The MOU with the Earth Institute partnering Lifebuoy with the Millennium Villages Project is one such example where working together will enhance our expertise of addressing hygiene in deep rural Africa and enable us to develop more effective solutions to reduce child mortality.”
“It is unacceptable that two million children die every year from infectious diseases when we have easy and cheap lifesaving solutions, such as handwashing with soap, readily available. Innovative partnerships between governments, civil society and business have a critical role to play in promoting better hygiene practices and in tackling the world’s deadliest diseases.”The date for the MOU with the Millennium Villages Project – October 15 th – has been chosen because it is the fifth anniversary of Global Handwashing Day 1 – a day celebrated in over 100 countries. Today Unilever is highlighting how handwashing with soap can help more children reach their fifth birthday. Everybody can help a child – Pledge on Facebook Millions around the world are asked to pledge on www.facebook.com/lifebuoy. With every pledge, Lifebuoy and its partners will help more children receive hygiene education through their dedicated handwashing behaviour change programmes. Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University said: “Diarrhoea and pneumonia are the two leading causes of under-5 deaths, accounting for around 30% of children's deaths globally – more than two million lives lost each year. More than 80% of these deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Addressing these challenges through improved hygiene is a vital and effective step towards saving lives and achieving the global Millennium Development Goal to reduce the child mortality rate by two-thirds by 2015.”