Even as nations pay lip service to pledges of protection and care of children, on the sidelines, 2 million children globally die of diarrhoea every year, of which more than 2 lakh are Indian kids under the age of five years. Surprisingly, simple preventive measures and availability of medication could prevent most of these deaths, reveals reports.
Most diarrhoea-related deaths in children are due to dehydration - the loss of large quantities of water and electrolytes. The treatment mainly focuses on providing oral rehydration salts and zinc.
Prevention of the disease chiefly lies in immunization, safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene programmes, good and healthy nutrition, breast milk and micronutrient supplementation (including vitamin A and zinc).
However, washing hands with soap at key occasions (before breakfast, before lunch, before dinner, after defecation and during bath) during the day has proven to be the most cost-effective and scalable solution to prevent the spread of diarrhoea.
In a very recent activity, Hindustan Unilever's hand wash brand Lifebuoy carried out an activation across the schools of Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh to promote this habit among the children before having their mid-day meal.
The brand installed a specially crafted rocking horse, made from a combination of wood and metal with a simple screw-on mechanism, on to the handles of the hand pumps in schools, making pumping a fun activity for kids. Children moved on the horse, which in turn pumped the water.
The activity was executed by Geometry Global, which aims to execute it across 1,500 schools of the two states by the end of June. At this point, the activity has been done in 500-600 schools.
The insight was that although most of the schools had hand pumps and soap, kids did not wash their hands as the handle of the pump was heavy and high, making it difficult for them to pump water. As it was the only way to access water in these schools, they chose not to wash hands.
Vipul Salvi, national creative director, Geometry Global India, says, "When we toured the areas, we found that pumps and soaps were available for the children, but they weren't used. So we decided to connect with the children in a language known to them - that of play - to convey that washing hands before a meal is necessary. And, schools were the best places because a large number of children could easily be targeted there."
The pumps were fitted with both, a double and a single horse swing. According to the estimates, the double horse cost Rs 700-800 per installation. The installations were left in the schools after the activity was over.
In rural India, mid-day meal schemes are big pullers of students. Salvi further adds that the kids there do not have proper playgrounds. "So this activity was like an add-on to their play time, where they could have some fun also," adds Salvi.
The brand is not looking at a sales-driven ROI from this activity and plans to go back to the schools to ascertain the impact in changing behaviour. Salvi further adds, "Most brands go for ROI-driven advertising/marketing campaigns, but this one is aimed at adding and giving something to the society and making a difference."
Obtaining permissions from the schools was the most difficult aspect, says the agency, as the authorities were sceptical about the 'free' endeavour. At the end of the activity, the brand felicitated each school.
The agency has also created a video of the entire activity and produced a song that goes with it, with the lyrics 'Baj Uthi Tan Tan, Chal diye Ban Than, Taang ke apna basta', which showcases the daily routine of the children who go to their schools in these areas. The video begins with some facts and figures on diarrhoea deaths and ends with a montage of children playing with the horse and pumping water.
George Koshy, general manager, skin cleansing, HUL, says, "Lifebuoy has a proud history of being a brand that stands for saving lives. It is indeed our mission to ensure that hand washing with soap becomes a habit for children, as a step to reducing diarrheal mortality. The 'Jump Pump' activation is an innovative approach, appealing to children in a manner that is fun and enjoyable."
Lifebuoy has been active in the domain of CSR initiatives. In 2013, it ran the 'Help a Child Reach 5' campaign, under which it adopted Thesgora village in Madhya Pradesh that has one of the highest rates of diarrhoea. It has now adopted Bitobe in Indonesia. Both villages have one thing in common - very few new born children are able to cross the age of five and die earlier due to diseases.
Two films were released as a part of this campaign. In the first, a man walks on his hands from his home to the village temple in order to show gratification to the lord as his child reaches the fifth birthday. In the other film, a woman, according to village tradition, plants a tree on the birth of her child and takes care of it like her child. While the kid is unable to survive because of diarrhoea, the woman celebrates the fifth birthday of the tree.
During the Mahakumbh Mela celebrations in India in 2013, the brand served chapatis to more than 2.5 million pilgrims with a branded message that reminded people to wash their hands.
Lifebuoy has partnered with organisations and agencies and is working in different countries such as Brazil, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia to prevent the disease.