‘H for Handwashing’ initiative to accelerate handwashing behaviour change amongst children

  • This Global Handwashing Day (15 October), the Department of Basic Education (DBE), UNICEF, and Lifebuoy announce the signing of a declaration of intent to change the way the letter ‘H’in the alphabet is being taught to become the the universally accepted symbol for handwashing.

[SOUTH AFRICA], 15 October 2020 – This Global Handwashing Day, the Department of Basic Education (DBE), UNICEF, and Lifebuoy are signing a tri-partite declaration of intent to change the way the letter H is taught in the alphabet from “H is for Hat” to “H is for Handwashing”, with the objective to make ‘H’ the universal symbol for Handwashing in all schools nationwide.

Inspired by how children learn their A-B-Cs, the way the letter H is taught has been reimagined, advocating that H stands for Handwashing. This initiative was co-created with global education, health, humanitarian, and behavioural change experts to encourage handwashing habits from a young age.

This follows the international spotlight the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF have placed on the importance of handwashing with soap amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. UNICEF is the global lead on WASH which aims to support the most vulnerable communities with the means to protect their health and environment.

While COVID-19 has elevated the importance of hand hygiene, the need for it goes beyond the virus. This remains a critical concern in South Africa, where children are most impacted by poor hygiene. “Hand hygiene needs to become part of our everyday life, now and beyond the Covid-19 pandemic. Handwashing with soap is the easiest and most cost-effective way to save lives. This needs to be practised and prioritised.We are looking forward to collaborating with Lifebuoy and UNICEF on this vital initiative, integrating hygiene education into early childhood learning,” says Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga.

Lifebuoy has been working together with the Department of Basic Education for a number of years to to instil proper handwashing practices. To date, it has reached over three million Grade 1 learners through the National Schools Hygiene and Sanitation Programme. “This year’s Global Handwashing Day is paramount given the pandemic. We’re reaffirming our commitments to ensure handwashing with soap becomes a lesson learned early and one that nobody forgets. We are also proud of the expansion strategy of our handwashing education programme, enabling us to reach 23 000 schools and 12 million learners from Grade R to Matric,” says Keegan Alicks, Beauty & Personal Care Director for Southern Africa, noting the declaration between the DBE, UNICEF, and Lifebuoy will be signed at Phamehlo Primary School in Sebokeng.

“The best time to learn proper handwashing habits is when you are young,” said UNICEF South Africa Representative, Christine Muhigana. “This investment in hand hygiene education can stop the spread of diseases and save lives but it has to go hand-in-hand with access to handwashing facilities, including water and soap” Muhigana added.

“That’s why it’s so important that multiple partners come together to improve hand hygiene for all,” said Muhigana.

Lifebuoy and the Department of Basic Education have elevated hand hygiene by driving social behaviour programmes among learners. During the Covid-19 pandemic, Lifebuoy has donated over 2 million soaps and sanitisers to the value of R40 million to assist staff and learners, and together with UNICEF, it will provide new handwashing stations to several schools.

About Lifebuoy

Lifebuoy is the world’s number one hygiene soap brand1, sold in nearly 60 countries. Through the Lifebuoy brand, we aim to make a difference by creating quality, affordable products and promoting healthy hygiene habits. Since 2010, we have reached over 1 billion people through our handwashing programmes.

The desire to be clean, active and healthy is intrinsic to everyone – irrespective of age or economic status. We understand this and Lifebuoy soap has championed the cause for better hygiene for more than a century.

An inspiring vision for more hygienic, healthier and ultimately more vital communities is the driving force behind the Lifebuoy brand. To realise this vision, we look to consistently innovate and provide affordable Lifebuoy products to a wide variety of consumers. The vision also commits the Lifebuoy brand team to visible action through inspiring projects that motivate consumers to improve their hygiene behaviour.

Since the launch of the Lifebuoy brand in 1894, we have supported people in their quest for better personal hygiene. The classic red bar of soap and its distinctive medicated carbolic scent was synonymous with cleanliness throughout the twentieth century. Today, the brand is so much more. With its many soap variants and specially designed body washes. These, along with the range of liquid hand washes and hand hygiene gel, ensure daily hygiene and freshness for the entire family.

Social Media: Twitter – @lifebuoysoap / YouTube – 'Lifebuoy Global' /

About Global Handwashing Day

Global Handwashing Day (GHD) is a global advocacy day dedicated to increasing awareness and understanding about the importance of handwashing with soap to prevent diseases and save lives. The advocacy day, now its 12th year, was co-founded by Unilever through its Lifebuoy brand in 2008 with the Global Handwashing Partnership (GHP) alongside UNICEF, P&G, USAID, the Work Bank Water and Sanitation Programme, US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and the Academy for Educational Development.

The Global Handwashing Partnership is a coalition of international stakeholders who work explicitly to promote handwashing with soap and recognise hygiene as a pillar of international development and public health.

Each year, GHD is celebrated by over 200 million people in more than 100 countries around the world. 2019 saw one of the largest GHD brand activations yet for Lifebuoy, reaching more than 25 million people through digital and more than 3.4 million pupils reached through school visits.

About the Global Handwashing Partnership

The Global Handwashing Partnership is a coalition that brings together the expertise, experience, ideas, resources and reach of the public and private sectors around the world to promote handwashing with soap. Our vision is for handwashing with soap to be universally promoted and practised at all critical times.

[1] Calculation based on Nielsen unit sales information for the total markets (approx. 40 countries). Latest 12 months available.

About Save the Children

Save the Children exists to help every child reach their full potential. In more than 100 countries, including the UK, we make sure children stay safe, healthy and learning and change the future for