Reckitt Benckiser and Save the Children unite to help stop children under five dying from diarrhea

Innovative technology combined with expertise in implementing life-saving programs will tackle one of the biggest killing diseases of children under five globally.

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Reckitt Benckiser (RB) – a global consumer goods leader in health, hygiene and home whose portfolio includes iconic brands such as Clearasil®, Mucinex®, Lysol® and Woolite® - and Save the Children today announce a new global focus to their existing partnership, with an initial funding of $35.5 million and  a goal to target the devastating global death rate in children under five from diarrhea by 2020; a preventable illness. 

The ‘Healthier kids, Happier homes’ global partnership will combine RB’s global expertise in hygiene and health, innovative technology and consumer communication capabilities with Save the Children’s expertise in delivering life-saving treatments. This will help to bring RB and Save the Children a step closer to achieving their mutual vision where no child under the age of five dies from preventable causes, such as diarrhea.

Globally, diarrhea remains the second leading cause of death from a preventable disease among children under five, behind pneumonia[i]. Nearly one in 10 child deaths (approximately 800,000 each yeari) is due to diarrhea caused by poor home environments, inadequate personal hygiene and lack of access to essential services such as healthcare, sanitation, clean water and basic nutrition.

RB’s innovative technology will play an important role in helping to reduce the number of cases of diarrhea in under the age of five. By developing new, innovative products, for example a low cost ‘de-germer’, RB aims to support mass reach hand-hygiene campaigns and create safer home environments for babies and children, helping families to live healthier and happier lives. Furthermore, these products could help increase the efficacy of family health kits and clean delivery newborn kits, while new enzyme technology could boost the efficacy of household water treatment and safe storage systems. In addition to providing expertise, RB is committing to a multi-million dollar investment to achieve its vision by 2020, and involving its 36,000 employees around the world in the initiative.

In the last decade, significant progress has been made around the world in reducing the number of children dying from preventable illnesses, but there is still crucial work to be done. Despite efforts, today only 39 percent[ii] of children with diarrhea in developing countries receive the vital recommended treatment they need. In a new study[iii] of mothers in the United States (US) and United Kingdom (UK) with children under five, over half of US mothers and nearly one-third of UK mothers were not aware of the severity of diarrhea. 53 percent of US mothers and 27 percent of UK mothers ranked diarrhea as the fifth leading cause of death in children globally, when in reality it is the second biggest killing disease. Despite this difference in awareness levels, both the US and UK respondents recognized hand hygiene as an effective measure to reduce the risk of diarrhea in children, with 82 percent of mothers in the US and 84 percent in the UK agreeing.

Justin Forsyth, Chief Executive of Save the Children adds:  “At an unacceptable rate, children in the developing world are dying from completely preventable diseases, like diarrhea. We have already made dramatic progress in reducing the number of children dying, but there is still much more that needs to be done. Through this exciting partnership with RB, we can combine our skills and transform the lives of thousands of the world’s most vulnerable children.”

Rakesh Kapoor, CEO of RB says, “Businesses like RB have a responsibility beyond results and our larger role is to do more for the world. We want to make a difference by providing innovative solutions for healthier lives and happier homes. And our growing partnership with Save the Children will go some way to creating lasting improvements in the health and hygiene of vulnerable children and families globally. Together, we want to help stop diarrhea being one of the biggest causes of death in children, and this is ambitious --- but we believe that with the knowledge and strength of our partnership, this is achievable.”

The ‘Healthier kids, Happier homes’ global partnership will launch with two pilot projects in Nigeria and Pakistan, looking at embedding best behaviors and attitudes to health and hygiene, and to educate children and families on the causes, prevention and treatment of diarrhea. Save the Children is a world leader in implementing life-saving treatments that tackle the top causes of illness and death in children, and throughout this global partnership vital operational research will be conducted to ensure the pilot programs can be reproduced and scaled up across other countries, to achieve success in tackling diarrhea globally.

This new phase of the global partnership continues to build on the ground-breaking projects already underway around the world. Since the partnership began in 2003, RB has helped Save the Children reach over one million children.

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