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The British government has joined forces with Unilever to hammer home the importance of regular handwashing, with the aim of reaching up to a billion people in the developing world to help halt the spread of coronavirus.

The joint public information campaign will educate up to a billion of the world’s poorest people on the need for strong personal hygiene and regular disinfection of surfaces, supported by the distribution of 20m products such as soap.

This message will be conveyed by TV, radio, print, social and digital media with messages tailored to specific countries across Africa and Asia, such as Kenya, Ghana and Bangladesh.

Backed to the tune of £50m each by the Department for International Development and Unilever the project seeks to mitigate the impact of the virus on the world’s poorest while also mitigating the potential for future outbreaks to disrupt travel and the world economy.

Unilever chief exec, Alan Jope, said: “Lifebuoy and Domestos have a proven track record of running hygiene awareness and education programmes successfully, and we hope that the work we will be able to drive jointly with UK aid will help save lives that could otherwise be impacted by coronavirus. 

“As the world’s biggest soap company, we have a responsibility to help make soap and hygiene products more readily available, and to use our expertise to teach people to wash their hands effectively, whichever brand they choose to use.”

Unilever has found itself on the frontline of a global coronavirus fightback with the consumer goods giant donating soap, sanitizer, bleach and food to the Covid Action Platform of the World Economic Forum and guaranteeing early payment to suppliers.