The UK government has launched a huge public health information campaign promoting the importance of hand washing around the world, in an urgent bid to tackle the spread of COVID-19 in developing countries.
The UK aid programme hopes to reach one billion of the world’s poorest people with advertising and is accompanied by the distribution of 20 million hygiene products, such as soap, to areas where there is little to no sanitation, according to the Department for International Development (DfID).
The campaign will involve messaging across TV, print, radio, and social media that has been tailored to specific countries in Asia and Africa including Bangladesh, Ghana, and Kenya, reported marketing magazine The Drum.
The advertising will remind people to wash their hands as well as providing information on how to wash hands thoroughly.
Funding for the project has come from the UK aid budget, and the government has also teamed up with consumer goods giant Unilever, a large manufacturer of personal hygiene products. Both DfID and Unilever have put £50 million each towards the programme.
“Health experts have said washing your hands regularly and staying away from other people are the most effective ways to stop this virus from spreading and save lives," said International Development Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan in a statement from DfID. “Many people in the poorest countries lack access to basic handwashing products such as soap, or are not aware of the urgent need to change their behaviour.”
The government said in its statement that, as well as being vital to stop the spread of the disease in developing countries, it is hoped that the programme will reduce the future impact of coronavirus on the global economy and travel.
It’s far from the only way UK aid resources are being used to help tackle the spread of COVID-19. Over £500 million in aid is already being spent on work to help mitigate the virus in developing countries, including on humanitarian support, and support for research into a vaccine.
Hand washing has been a key part of the advice from public health experts. In March, the World Health Organisation (WHO) launched the #SafeHandsChallenge, encouraging the public and celebrities to wash their hands for 40 seconds. It went viral on TikTok and Instagram.