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Handwashing - An Approach for Disease Control

September 29, 2017

More than 85% of RMG workers are women. Poor hygiene at work can have an impact on entire families.

With exports of $28.09 billion in 2015-2016, Bangladesh has become the second largest apparel manufacturer in the world, after China1. The industry contributes 82% of the total export value from Bangladesh and around 10% of the national economy. More than four million people, around 85% women, are employed in the ready-made garment worker’s industry, impacting 16 million people and contributing a 9% reduction to the local poverty level2.

However, WHO reports show that ready-made garment workers in Bangladesh suffer significantly from diarrhea, dysentery, skin disease, lung disease and other health conditions, many of which are contagious and spread through hands from one to another. Proper handwashing can reduce the contamination of these diseases to a great extent.

In June 2017 BASF began an initiative with the "Voluntary Organization for Social Development" (VOSD), an innovative project to enhance hand washing hygiene among Bangladesh’s ready-made garment workers. This project aims to facilitate the ready-made garment workers with proper handwashing using liquid soap made with a BASF formulation and informs them about the benefits of liquid soap in comparison to bar soaps. Bar soaps are often contaminated with harmful germs as one piece of soap is used to wash the hands of many workers.

Handwashing with soap can reduce the incidence of acute respiratory infections, such as colds, by 23%.

BASF Bangladesh has already formulated a hand wash solution for the sector by providing customized technical support to the manufacturer of the hand wash liquid. In order to familiarize workers and manufacturers with BASF’s liquid hand wash, BASF will provide dispensers and liquid hand wash for free for three months. Simultaneously, the program will seek to develop tools to demonstrate to manufacturers the desirability of continuing to buy liquid hand wash for workers, for example through reduced absenteeism.

Birgit Hellmann
Global Sustainability Communications