The ‘Iodine Salt Run' in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, on Global Iodine Deficiency Disorders Day
By Vikas Verma
Hyderabad, 21 October 2005
In the early hours of the morning today, about 2000 children from various schools of Hyderabad, the capital city of the state of Andhra Pradesh in India, enthusiastically trooped into the heart of the city wearing blue caps and white T-shirts. Proudly carrying their school flags they had gathered there to run the 2 kilometer stretch to create awareness amongst general public on the use of iodized salt.
Fifty per cent of the children born every year in India (13 million out of a total of 26 million) are unprotected against Iodine Deficiency Disorders such as brain damage, deaf mutism, dwarfism and severely depleted levels of productivity. Andhra Pradesh’s (population - 76.2 million) salt requirement for consumption is about half a million metric tonnes per year. But only 37% of the families are able to consume iodized salt.
The Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh Dr. Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy flagged off the run. While addressing the children, he pointed out that deficiency of iodine in the food leads to low intelligence and every household should use only iodized salt in their food. He said that the government is making all efforts to make iodized salt available in most fair price shops in the state.
Prior to the address by the Chief Minister, UNICEF Representative for the States of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka - Mr. Michel Saint-Lot, addressed the children. He explained the prevalence of iodine deficiency disorders and the negative consequences of iodine deficiency focusing on intelligence and mental development. Children cheered him loudly when he appealed to them to demand from the Chief Minister as well as their parents "their right to have iodized salt and they should get it".
The ban imposed on non - iodized salt by the government is being challenged in the court, hence the possibility of stopping its availability in the market is low. UNICEF is advocating the following to solve the issue at the local level: creating a demand from the public; orienting the salt producers and traders on the benefits of iodized salt; ensuring the availability of iodized salt at affordable prices.
Three days prior to the event, messages were broadcast on All India Radio (AIR) and Doordarshan (National Television) highlighting the importance of iodized salt. The teachers accompanying the children were trained a day before on the issues surrounding iodine deficiency so that they could impart the information to the children and explain the significance of the run.
The local media was also present in large numbers to cover the event which is expected to further create statewide awareness on IDD. AIR and Doordarshan will be covering IDD and the event for one week in their prime time news and other programmes.
The school children of Hyderabad have shown the way for the general public to stay healthy, by running for the IDD Day.