Dettol launches Mzansi Protect campaign to encourage handwashing and reduce preventable illness and diseases


By Oluthando Keteyi

This week, Dettol launched its Mzansi Protect initiative aimed at reducing the burden of diarrhoea in South Africa by 50% by 2027.

Good hand hygiene may be a simple practice, but it is a highly effective action to prevent illness and diseases.

The push to wash hands has been a message that has been imprinted on everyone’s consciousness since the Covid-19 pandemic arrived.

With the Stats SA General Household Survey 2020 showing that 42% of South Africans don’t wash their hands with soap and water, the need to drive handwashing education has become even more imperative.

According to research, washing hands with soap can reduce the rate of diarrhoea by almost 40% and acute respiratory diseases by up to 25%.

At the launch, Dettol announced two incredible partnerships – one with the Nelson Mandela Foundation and the other with current world rugby champions, the Springboks – to help reduce the burden of diarrhoea.

The launch was MC’ed by renowned broadcaster Relebogile Mabotja, who shared how she, as a mother, encourages hand hygiene in her home.

Sikhonjiwe Masilela, director of maternal health at the Gauteng Department of Health; Sello Hatang, CEO of the Nelson Mandela Foundation; and Ioannis Dostas, Reckitt regional director.

“As a mom, as a person, handwashing is so important – and I think of myself as a person with an auto-immune disease. I’ve got asthma, I’ve got eczema and sinus issues. It’s so easy for me to pick up things without even being aware, and those habits start at home.

“We take it for granted because it’s programmed in our minds that we wash our hands when we come from the toilet. We need to wash our hands all the time,” she shared.

Mabotja also chaired a panel discussion with Masibonge Mkhize, the head of corporate, external affairs and partnerships at Reckitt, and Dr Thandeka Ngcobo on the challenges around handwashing and diseases.

In addition to the Dettol New Mums programme, Mzansi Protect aims to educate one million learners in schools and early childhood development centres across the country.

The launch of the New Dettol Hygiene Quest School Programme carried with it the educational message of #eachoneteachone – ensuring that hygiene habits are instilled at a young age.

The New Mums programme, launched in 2017, educates expecting mothers about postnatal hygiene and handwashing.

Sikhonjiwe Masilela, director of maternal child health and nutrition at the Gauteng Department of Health, explained how the department was creating awareness around diarrhoea and its severity in children.

Diarrhoea is the second largest cause of death in children under five.

He also unpacked how the department and Dettol were working together to tackle the issue.

In addition, Professor Nicola Page shared her research on the link between handwashing and diarrhoea.

Sphesihle Jozana from Uvile Kids Academy in Katlehong demonstrates how to wash your hands properly, using soap and water.

Bayode Akanbi, the marketing manager for Dettol South Africa, elaborated on what drove the brand’s involvement. “We live in a climate where people still fall ill from hygiene-related preventable diseases. As a brand that is built around protecting the family, we have taken the cause as our purpose: driving the message of prevention via education on handwashing, in a bid to prevent illnesses and diseases and ensure that people live to their optimum.”

Encouraging the important message of washing hands properly, children from Uvile Kids Academy performed the handwashing song. While the children sang, they also enacted how to properly wash their hands.

Akanbi said that the brand chose to target parents and children to create an ecosystem that promotes the importance of handwashing within a family unit.

The relationship with the Nelson Mandela Foundation will help drive hygiene and handwashing education, as well as provide much-needed hygiene infrastructure to early childhood development centres across the country – ensuring no child is left behind.

Sello Hatang, CEO of the Nelson Mandela Foundation explained that trustworthy partnerships are needed to ensure that those who are in need receive the assistance they require.

“The foundation saw fit to do this work with Dettol because we tend to go into those communities that are in greatest need. When we do our ECD work, for example, we find that we arrive in a community that not only needs water, it also needs proper sanitation besides you giving them a school,” Hatang said.

“I think if we should have partnerships that fulfil other needs around what you are dealing with. When you bring an ECD centre, it comes with proper hygiene facilities, which means those little ones will be impacted more and will be able to pass on the message at home. For you to change the story, it starts with them young because it will mean they will grow with it.”

At the end of the launch, guests were asked to take the pledge to encourage handwashing.

Sphesihle Jozana, a learner from Uvile Kids Academy, kicked off the pledge proceedings by getting her hands covered in paint before pasting them onto the pledge wall.

After getting their hands dirty, pledge takers then washed their hands with Dettol soap and water, in line with the Mzansi Protect message.



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