Despite advances in health and medicine, Pakistan remains a country where access to healthcare and proper hygiene and sanitation still remains a problem.
Since mortality rates among children are usually seen as an indicator for the level of social development in a country, Pakistan ranks 23 in the world for under-five deaths in children, according to a report issued by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). The report further states that the country loses about 53,000 children under five due to diarrhoea and about 24,000 children due to pneumonia every year.
Keeping in view the above context, there are a few companies in Pakistan such as Unilever, Reckitt & Benckiser and Procter & Gamble, which through their brands, are continuously deploying their corporate social responsibility resources to raise awareness about the importance of hygiene; especially ‘hand hygiene’ to avoid preventable diseases like diarrhoea and pneumonia.
Unilever’s brand Lifebuoy, in continuation of its nine-year-long endeavour to fight germs and improve life expectancy of children in Pakistan, recently celebrated Global Hand washing Day (GHD) in Karachi with the theme, ‘High5forHandwashing.’
GHD was established in collaboration with various organisations including Colgate-Palmolive, Unilever, The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Procter & Gamble, UNICEF, University of Buffalo, USAID and The World Bank Water Sanitation Programme. It is now celebrated on October 15 in over 75 countries in South Asia, Latin America and Africa to extend the message of health and hygiene and inculcate the habit of hand washing with soap.
To make anything a habit requires at least 21 days of reinforcement. The teams, therefore, visit the same school, the same children 21 days in a row and talk to them about the importance of hand-washing; from describing what germs are to demonstrating the right technique of washing hands.
Lifebuoy Pakistan’s High5forHandwashing is part of Lifebuoy’s Global Handwashing Campaign ‘Help a Child Reach Five’, aimed at assisting countries realise specific targets within the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to ensure sanitation for all. Other targets include improving nutrition, reducing environmental impact, including availability of clean water, reducing greenhouse gases, and enhancing livelihood, which includes empowering women and achieving gender equality.
This year, at the GHD celebration Lifebuoy pledged to educate five children per high-five about the importance of hand-washing. The event, held on October 22, at the PAF Museum, attracted about 20,000 people, including school children, parents and celebrities – and concluded with the making of a world record of the highest number of high-fives in a minute.
In 2015, Lifebuoy reached out to about 6.8 million people; 24 million since 2010. Mariam Mamsa, Assistant Manager Corporate Affairs, Unilever Pakistan said the idea was along the lines of Mother’s Day, Women’s Day or Breast Cancer Week that are celebrated every year.“It is a very good way for such ideas to be acknowledged because it gets people’s attention and everything is focused towards that idea.”
The word was spread via a TVC, social media and print. Actor and host Fahad Mustafa, who acts as spokesperson for the brand, along with other celebrities, who volunteered to market the event.
There was a campus drive where over 30 schools were approached to participate, have a great time and then go out and talk about the campaign.
The record-making action took place in the final hours. Although the Guinness team was not present, the entire ‘High5’ process was video-taped and sent to Guinness via email. Two days later the team got back to them with the news that they had made a world record for achieving the highest number of double high-fives in 60 seconds.
“Yes, we achieved a world record, but the objective of our campaign goes far beyond it; the record was just the talkability element,” said Raheel Pasha Khan, Marketing Director, Skin Cleansing, Skin and Oral Care, Unilever, adding the world record was just to scale up the event; one day was obviously not enough to address the problem but it did a lot to get customers’ attention.
Although Lifebuoy’s GHD was a single-day celebration, the campaign continues throughout the year. A major part of the campaign is the employee engagement programme, conducted in partnership with The Citizen’s Foundation (TCF), the Sindh Foundation, the Punjab Education Foundation and other low-tier schools, wherein employees volunteer to visit schools in their respective cities and spread the hand washing message.
Lifebuoy’s target is to reach a billion people by 2020 and the year after year long programmes are, according to the team, extremely rigorous. They said that to make anything a habit requires at least 21 days of reinforcement. The teams, therefore, visit the same school, the same children 21 days in a row and talk to them about the importance of hand-washing; from describing what germs are to demonstrating the right technique of washing hands. Children are taught to wash their hands before breakfast, lunch and dinner, after using the toilet and after bathing.
Mamsa termed the exercise ‘exhaustive, considering the huge population, logistics and the patience and consistency required in educating these communities, especially when it comes to reaching rural communities living in far-off areas, where it is difficult for people to afford a Rs 30 bar soap. People there have to be convinced not just to wash their hands with water, but with both ‘soap and water’ and in the right manner and that if their hands are soiled, just dusting the dirt off will not get rid of the germs.