• Thursday, June 20, 2024
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Reckitt awards N37.8m to six Nigerian health innovators


Reckitt, a global leader in health, hygiene, and nutrition, has awarded N37.8 million to six Nigerian social entrepreneurs.

These entrepreneurs were chosen through a competitive process from over 200 applicants for Reckitt’s Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Accelerator program.

The five-month WASH Accelerator programme empowers grassroots innovators to improve access to WASH in Nigeria.

The six winning enterprises are Onyesi Care Foundation, Alora Reusable Pads, ToiletPride, SoSo Care, Kiddies and Brands.

Each enterprise received N6.3 million to expand its WASH innovations during a stakeholder’s dinner showcasing Reckitt’s flagship social impact initiatives.

With 73.5 per cent of Nigeria’s population lacking access to improved drinking water sources and sanitation facilities, more than 70,000 children under five die yearly from exposure to water-borne diseases including diarrhoea, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

This problem is worse in rural areas, where the gap for improved services widens to 64.1 per cent.

While the government is ultimately charged with providing equitable access to WASH services, private entities are collaborating to address this challenge.

Reckitt, for instance, is one such company contributing through its social impact programmes such as the Clean Naija campaign and the Hygiene Quest.

The Clean Naija initiative aims to improve hygiene standards across Nigeria through education and community engagement.

Similarly, the Hygiene Quest has made remarkable progress in reaching school children with essential hygiene education and aims to educate 10 million children by 2035. These programs are instrumental in promoting good hygiene practices and preventing diseases.

One of the enterprises Reckitt supports is SoSo Care, which runs a unique medical insurance system.

This system uses recyclable plastics as premiums, allowing beneficiaries to pay for malaria treatments with proceeds generated from collected plastic waste.

This innovative approach reduces out-of-pocket healthcare expenses.

Kris Licht, Reckitt’s international CEO, acknowledged that Nigeria’s economy has macroeconomic and fiscal challenges to contend with.

However, Licht reiterated the company’s resilience and commitment to working through the difficulties, noting that many lives, opportunities, and potentials can be saved with the problems addressed.

Licht said the company is as committed to scaling its social impact programme as its goal to expand its business with increased investments in production capacity.

“While we want to grow our business, we certainly also want to grow our impact and solve these big problems simply because it is the right thing to do. These are basic things: access to clean water, hygiene products, knowledge of hygiene, and access to healthcare,” Licht said.

“This is a very important market to us. In addition to that, we have a major export opportunity from Nigeria that we are interested in growing and developing in the coming years which will further strengthen the Nigerian economy.”

Lauding Reckitt’s investments in WASH goals and the promotion of healthy lifestyles in many parts of Nigeria, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Lagos State Governor, expressed his government’s willingness to collaborate further to amplify the initiative’s impact.

Specifically, the governor announced a plan to build 150 public toilets across the state, aimed at promoting a responsible approach to waste disposal and reducing open defecation.

“If we need to jointly raise funding to do it, we are a willing partner. I can see that you have stretched from two million to 10 million. We need to see how we can activate that more. We cannot fold our arms and not make that change effectively,” Sanwo-Olu.

In 2021, Dettol, one of Reckitt’s brands invested in the design and implementation of ‘Hygiene Quest’, a school behaviour change programme as part of its WASH goals to reduce disease burden.

It covers a comprehensive hygiene curriculum, designed by experts to be interactive and engaging for children, for behavioural changes toward better hygiene.

The pilot phase was launched in Italy, Nigeria and the UK and teachers observed increased hand washing, better techniques, and increased use of soap.

In Nigeria, 34 per cent of pupils showed an increase in knowledge while a seven per cent reduction in diarrhoea was recorded, the second leading cause of child death in Nigeria.

Generally, the pilot phase saw the rate of illness reduced, as children spent more days in school. The Quest is being scaled globally, extending to Australia, Malaysia, Pakistan, South Africa, Singapore and Thailand.

Hamza Sarwar, Reckitt’s Global Social Impact and Partnership director emphasised that access to clean water, hygiene, and sanitation is a fundamental human right and essential for societal well-being.

He argues that closing the financial gap through public-private partnerships is crucial to achieving this goal.

“The World Bank estimates around 4 per cent of GDP needs to be invested behind WASH services and we are some way off the mark. To do this, we know collectively public, private, and multilateral partnerships are critical.”

“We simply cannot do it alone and I give a huge thanks to all of our partners who are helping us to achieve this mission and ensuring that access to wash is giving us a bright and uprooted vision.”