Handwashing With Soap Can Help Us Achieve the Millennium Development Goals by Myriam Sidibe, Global Social Mission Director, Unilever-Lifebuoy | Source: Huffington Post blog, July 6, 2013
Being able to live a clean, active and healthy life should be a basic human right. Yet, this is not a privilege that everyone has — a point underscored by two high level reports last week.
UNICEF’s latest report reminds us that pneumonia and diarrhoea are the biggest killers of children globally, causing the deaths of approximately two million children under the age of five, every year. Meanwhile the World Health Organisation (WHO) reported that despite significant progress, the world is unlikely to meet the fourth Millennium Development Goal — to reduce child mortality by two-thirds from 1990 levels.
Both reports come at a critical point in time: the world has less than three years to scale-up efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. At Unilever we want to scale-up our own efforts on this front.
UNICEF’s report points to areas where business can help achieve the fourth Millennium Development Goal. Not only can diarrhoea and pneumonia be prevented through basic best practices, including frequent handwashing with soap at key occasions, but also more awareness raising campaigns could reduce deaths caused by pneumonia by 30 percent and diarrhoea by 60 percent — potentially saving more than two million children by 2015. This would be a significant progress in the aim to achieve the fourth Millennium Development Goal and reduce infant mortality.
Although we’re seeing a steady increase in awareness raising campaigns that demonstrate the link between health and good hygiene — from the WHO’s Clean Care is Safe Care programme through to the Global Public Private Partnership for Handwashing with Soap — more needs to be done to ensure that governments prioritise hygiene education programmes.