Skip to content

Lifebuoy, UNFPA and Amref Health Africa promote hygiene in Kenya


Average read time: 6 minutes

Event highlights the importance of handwashing with soap and its potential to save the lives of 600,000 children across the world who die every year before their fifth birthday due to easily preventable infections like diarrhoea and pneumonia

Main photo

NAIROBI, KENYA: June 24, 2016 – Unilever CEO Paul Polman today announced health soap brand, Lifebuoy’s, commitment to change the handwashing behaviours of 12 million Kenyans by 2020 through its Help A Child Reach 5 programme. The event was attended by Her Excellency Margaret Kenyatta and Country Representatives of UNFPA and Amref Health Africa, bringing them together to raise the profile of handwashing with soap as a high impact intervention for advancing maternal, newborn and child health.

In Kenya, more than 34,000 newborn babies die each year within their first month of life – a figure that translates to more than 90 deaths per day1. In Kenya also 5000-7000 women die each year from giving life. Grave inequalities in maternal, newborn and child health outcomes persist between regions. For example; only 15 out of 47 counties account for 98.7% of all maternal death2 .

The first 28 days of a child’s life are the most critical, as babies and their mothers are susceptible to infections. Handwashing with soap is a cost-effective way to reduce new-born deaths. High Impact Interventions such as family planning and access and availability to skilled care when delivering a baby are instrumental in preventing both women as well as newborns from losing their lives.

In Kenya, Lifebuoy aims to change the handwashing behaviour of pregnant women, new mothers and school children, starting in Migori County, which is located in a province with one of the highest child and infant mortality rates in Kenya3.

At the panel discussion, Lifebuoy premiered Help A Child Reach 5’s film “Sherry” to an audience that included around 50 pregnant women. The film follows one expectant mother in Migori County as she shares her hopes for her future child and learns the importance of handwashing with soap to realise those dreams.

Photo ewa
Photo ewa

Speaking during the unveiling of Lifebuoy’s social mission programme in Nairobi, Paul Polman said, “Changing the handwashing behaviour of one billion people worldwide by 2020 is part of Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan. Africa is an important market where we can make a difference for the business and the population and today in Kenya we are starting to make that difference.

"The simple act of handwashing with soap is one of the most cost-effective, yet often overlooked ways to save a child’s life and by leveraging the expertise and scale of our business, together with our partners, we can effect real change.”

The First Lady of the Republic of Kenya, Her Excellency Margaret Kenyatta, said that she supports private sector initiatives like Lifebuoy’s Help Child Reach 5 that help prevent neonatal deaths. Such initiatives complement her Beyond Zero Campaign of improving healthcare access across the country for every woman and child.

“Handwashing with soap is an incredibly effective way to keep a community healthy. If all mothers, health workers and care takers adopt handwashing with soap during the critical neonatal period, we will improve the health of future generations of Kenyans by reducing preventable child deaths due to diseases like diarrhoea and pneumonia,” said the First Lady.

The joint partnership between The Kenya National Government, County Government of Migori, Lifebuoy, AMREF and UNFPA will offer training programmes to health volunteers, who will in turn educate new mothers on simple preventive measures such as handwashing with soap and the importance to deliver at a clinic with skilled care available.

Dr. Githinji Gitahi, Group CEO at Amref Health Africa said, “I believe that the power to transform Kenya lies within the communities. The use of Community Health Volunteers facilitates monitoring of health at household level, and provision of life-saving information including basic hygiene like importance of handwashing with soap. We must ensure that CHVs are trained and supported to perform this crucial role.”

Siddharth Chatterjee, UNFPA representative to Kenya, said, “We’re delighted to shoulder this initiative supporting the First Ladies’ Beyond Zero Campaign. Unilever’s Lifebuoy and UNFPA are actively working on programmes and advocating for advancing maternal, newborn and child health. Through this new Public Private Partnership, we believe that we can increase awareness, strengthen capacities and improve behaviour which can save the lives of many women, mothers and babies.”

Note to editors

About the Help A Child Reach 5 campaign

  • Handwashing with soap has been recognised as a cost-effective and practical way to reduce the incidence of diarrhoea and other preventable diseases that are known to cause high neonatal mortality in developing countries.
  • Handwashing with soap saves lives. Lifebuoy’s Help a Child Reach 5 campaign aims to stop preventable deaths from diseases like diarrhoea by teaching lifesaving handwashing habits.
  • To drive awareness of the campaign, Lifebuoy created a moving film on what it means for a child to reach the age of 5:

About Lifebuoy

As the world’s leading health soap, Lifebuoy aims to make a difference by creating accessible hygiene products (soap) and promoting healthy hygiene habits. With this in mind, Lifebuoy aims to change the handwashing behaviour of one billion people by 2020. Since 2010 Lifebuoy has changed the handwashing behaviours of 337 million people across 28 countries.

For more information, please visit

About Unilever East Africa

Unilever East Africa is one of the leading suppliers of food, home and personal care products across East Africa. With about 19,000 employees, Unilever is one of the largest private employers in the region. Working to create a better future every day, Unilever helps people feel good, look good and get more out of life. Its portfolio includes most loved locally produced brands, OMO, Sunlight, Blue Band, Royco, Geisha and Vaseline, as well as key world’s renowned brands, like Knorr, Dove, Lux, Axe, among many others.

The company was ranked Top Employer for 2015 in Kenya by the Top Employer Institute, an international certification institute.

Unilever’s global ambition is to decouple growth from environmental impact (including sourcing, consumer use and disposal) and increase social impact. Unilever is committed to helping more than a billion people take action to improve their health and well-being, sourcing all its agricultural raw materials sustainably by 2020, and decoupling its growth from its environmental impact. Supporting its three big goals, Unilever has defined seven pillars, underpinned by targets encompassing social, environmental and economic areas. See more on the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan at

For more information about Unilever and its brands, please visit

1 WHO. 2015. Global Health Observatory data repository.


3 Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS). 2014. Kenya Demographic and Health Survey 2014.

For more information or interviews please contact:

Back to top