While most people do have access to soap, the number of people who regularly wash their hands at the right times – such as before eating and after using the toilet – is worryingly low. For example, India is the leading market for Unilever’s health soap brand, Lifebuoy, in terms of soap penetration – 99 percent of homes report having soap present - yet the country has the highest child mortality related to diarrheal disease. The average rate of handwashing after using the toilet is only 17 percent. This dips as low as 3 percent in Ghana and 1 percent in rural India.
And this reality is not just confined to countries where child mortality is high – rates of handwashing in the U.K. and U.S. are surprisingly low - proving that handwashing with soap is by no means an integral part of everyone’s daily routine.
So what can business, governments, international institutions, civil society organizations, NGOs, and the soap industry do to push hygiene up on the global health agenda and unlock the true potential of handwashing with soap? Unilever launches a new series on the occasion of Global Handwashing Day on October 15, 2012. You'll hear from health experts, business leaders and change makers: all working on pushing handwashing up the global health agenda.