FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 13, 2011
Public Information: 202-712-4810
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and Unilever-Lifebuoy announced a new public-private partnership that leverages their collective resources to improve handwashing practices among birth attendants and family members as a key evidence-based strategy to reduce newborn infections. The partnership was developed in collaboration with USAID’s flagship Maternal and Child Health Integrated Program (MCHIP).
Up to two-thirds of the 3.6 million newborn infants who die within the first four weeks after birth can be prevented. About 85 percent of these deaths are due to a combination of infections, prematurity and complications during labor. Simple, low-cost health interventions could reduce this figure by up to 70 percent. One such intervention is handwashing with soap.
Approximately one-third of the 3.6 million neonatal deaths that occur each year can be attributed to infections that develop into life-threatening conditions. USAID-supported research is strengthening the evidence base on infection management in young infants, especially in community-based settings.
A recent community study in Nepal concluded that handwashing with soap can reduce newborn deaths by up to 44%. For countries where newborn mortality is high, adopting handwashing with soap as a standard practice before delivery and while handling newborns is not only important, but it saves lives.
“USAID is introducing and scaling up the delivery of very simple, low-cost approaches to prevent death and treat severe illness to reach women and children in very poor communities who do not have access to quality health care,” said Richard Greene, Director Office of Health, Infectious Diseases and Nutrition, USAID. “And good hygiene is essential to good health.”
Keeping hands clean is one of the most important steps one can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others. Studies show that washing hands with soap is one of the most effective and inexpensive ways to prevent diseases: it can cut deaths from diarrhea by almost half and from acute respiratory infections by a quarter.
Global Development Alliances (GDA) like this link U.S. foreign assistance with the resources, expertise, innovation, and creativity of private sector partners and NGOs. Such alliances are vital to the achievement of transformational development goals, and alliances that have the greatest impact are the ones connected to the core business mission of the private company.
“At Lifebuoy, we understand the impact that handwashing with soap can make and have made a bold commitment to change the handwashing behavior of one billion people by 2015,” said Myriam Sidibe, Social Mission Director, Lifebuoy. “Persuading people to change their behaviour for long term health benefits is difficult, and requires a sound understanding of people’s habits, lifestyles and environment. We are proud to be working as a partner of this Global Development Alliance for newborn survival, which will implement effective behavior change interventions based on our collective understanding preventing infections and saving lives.”
Under the President’s Global Health Initiative, USAID is targeting investments where we can most effectively achieve dramatic, meaningful results for the American people and the developing world. Expanding these programs will mean providing easier access at a single location for a broader set of medical and health interventions. It means focusing more clearly and getting the full package of basic health services out to those people who are most vulnerable because they lack access to any protective care at all.
Key to success is motivating birth attendants, new mothers, health providers, and caretakers to adopt handwashing with soap as an ingrained habit to significantly reduce newborn deaths due to infection.
“We look forward to being an implementing partner in this Public-Private alliance,” said Koki Agarwal, Director, Maternal and Child Health Integrated Program (MCHIP). “We are committed to saving the lives of newborns and this is one simple, low-cost intervention that can do just that.”
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID): USAID is an independent federal government agency of the United States of America. U.S. foreign assistance has always had the twofold purpose of furthering America’s foreign policy interests in expanding democracy and free markets while improving the lives of the citizens of the developing world. USAID has a long history of promoting handwashing to reduce diarrhea among children under five and has catalyzed global public-private partnerships to promote handwashing. USAID has now expanded the communications message to promote handwashing for newborn survival through this partnership with Unilever.
Maternal and Child Health Integrated Program (MCHIP): MCHIP is the USAID global flagship program on maternal, newborn and child health. MCHIP is implemented by Jhpiego, Save the Children., John Snow, Inc (JSI); Macro International, Inc., Program for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH);Johns Hopkins University Institute for International Programs, Population Services International (PSI) and Broad Branch Associates.
Unilever, Lifebuoy: Unilever works with its partners to achieve long-term solutions to the many key global challenges facing consumers around the world. Lifebuoy one of Unilever’s oldest brands, creates products that provide accessible hygiene, and as the world’s leading health soap, we know there is more that we can do. For this reason, the Lifebuoy brand aims to make a difference in people’s day-to-day lives by helping to promote health and hygiene, and in particular encourage people to wash their hands with soap. By 2015, Lifebuoy aims to change the behavior of a billion people by promoting the “Lifebuoy Way” of handwashing with soap at 5 key occasions and hence making a difference and helping save lives.