|© UNICEF/HQ05-1708/Sanjit Das|
|A schoolgirl demonstrates the testing of iodine levels for salt samples during Sir Roger and Lady Moore’s visit to a primary school in the Bhamoria district, Jaipur, India which has a comprehensive awareness-raising programme on iodized salt.|
By Nadya Kassam and Savita Naqvi
JAIPUR, India, 18 November 2005 - UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Sir Roger Moore, accompanied by his wife, Lady Moore, arrived in Jaipur on Thursday, 17 November for a visit focused on promoting the use of iodized salt.
His one-day stopover in the capital of Rajasthan, a major salt-producing state, included meetings with senior officials, children, and visits to salt iodization projects around the city.
Sir Roger was in India for one week to talk to leaders and decision-makers about salt iodization as an issue of national concern. The former James Bond star has also been meeting with celebrities in Mumbai, the capital of Bollywood, to talk to producers and actors about ways in which the entertainment industry could help promote salt iodization.
Iodine deficiency is the single largest cause of preventable mental retardation. Of 26 million children born in India each year, half are unprotected against iodine deficiency disorder, whose symptoms also include deaf-mutism and severely reduced levels of productivity. It can lower IQ levels by between 10 and 15 per cent.
India is the third-largest producer of salt in the world after China and the USA, with annual output of 14 million tonnes. Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Rajasthan are major salt-producing states, accounting for about 70%, 15%, and 10%, respectively, of total production.
In Jaipur, Sir Roger congratulated the Governor of Rajasthan, H.E. Smt Pratibha Patil, for continuing a state-wide ban on the sale of non-iodized salt, and for distributing iodized salt free of charge in remote, tribal areas.
Cecilio Adorna, UNICEF India Representative, said that Rajasthan had the leadership required to make Universal Salt Iodization a reality. “Rajasthan could be a role model for other Indian states,” he said. More work is needed on quality control, and in raising public awareness about the risks of using non-iodized salt, he said.
Sir Roger and Lady Moore visited a primary school in Bhamoria district, which has had a comprehensive awareness-raising programme on iodized salt. They also visited a mid-day meal project, which provides lunches for over 300,000 children each day using adequately iodized salt.
Sir Roger met with salt producers, local NGOs, government officials and civil society organizations in Jaipur to discuss problems faced by producers, costs associated with the production and distribution of iodized salt, and their plans for achieving 100 per cent coverage.
At a press conference to end his visit, he emphasized the need to advocate for children and to be their voice, calling on members of the press to look at salt iodization as a national development issue. One journalist asked Sir Roger the secret of looking so young. “Iodized salt!” Sir Roger replied.
20 November 2005:
UNICEF correspondent Sabine Dolan reports on Sir Roger Moore’s visit to India to promote the use of iodized salt.