Kajol: Handwashing Saves Lives
A child dies from diarrhea or pneumonia every 15 seconds. Hand washing alone could reduce diarrhea by 45 percent and pneumonia by 23 percent. Yet to many in the developing world, the link between hand washing and these life-threatening conditions is simply not known.
Upon learning of these figures, Indian actress and mother Kajol Devgan (known mononymously as “Kajol”) was shocked.
“I thought it would be something much bigger,” she said. “I thought they would say drought…or children are dying because of some great disease. But it wasn’t something like that. It was something small. It was something preventable. It was something with just a basic idea of hygiene you could prevent.”
And try to prevent it is just what she had done.
Since August 2013 the Bollywood star has taken on the challenge, using her celebrity status to help boost participation in the “Help a Child Reach 5″ hand washing campaign, which aims to eradicate diarrhea one village at a time.
In this video above (which was shot during UN week in New York City), Kajol discusses hygiene in Indian culture, and why she is optimistic that hand washing will be adopted widely, once the message is out.
Unilever’s India-based brand, Lifebuoy, is one of the key players behind this campaign. It’s public-private partnerships that create impact, says Pavan Lifebuoy Brand Director. Selling soap is his “bread and butter,” as he puts it. But he also recognizes that every year 2 million children die because of diarrhea and pneumonia: diseases that can be avoided by proper hygiene.
Lifebuoy, a subset of its parent company, Unilever, developed a handwashing program for school children. They targeted a town of 5500 in Madhya Pradesh, India – reportedly, with one of the highest rates of diarrhea-related deaths. Lifebuoy is hoping for a trickle effect: kids practice handwashing in the classroom for 21 days and then take it home, educating their parents as well.
The mission is to educate 1 billion people by 2015 on handwashing. So far, they’ve hit 130 million. But what’s driving Bedi forward is this mish-mash of good business and good deeds. Selling more soap is profitable for the company and ensuring that more hands are clean is profitable for public health.
Business is taking the lead, Bedi says, because “the cost of inaction is greater than the cost of action.”
The only thing is that handwash campaigns are not a novel idea. It’s in the execution that Unilever can distinguish itself form the lot of non-profits, companies, and development agencies – all doing the same.
Nevertheless, companies are tippy-toeing towards “good.” Perhaps, we should be hopeful.
To learn more or get involved, check out the “Help a Child Reach 5″ campaign’s video.
This video was produced by Monica Gray (@MonicaNGray), a DC-based filmmaker and Video Correspondent at the Diplomatic Courier. It was originally published by the Diplomatic Courier and has been republished with permission. Copyright 2006-2013 The Diplomatic Courier™. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.