Sir Roger to call for more iodized salt production, consumption to combat threat of disabilities
PHNOM PENH, 16 October 2003 – Sir Roger Moore, a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and popular actor, will visit Cambodia October 22-26 to promote the increased consumption and production of iodized salt to combat the threat of mental retardation and other disabilities caused by iodine deficiency.
Sir Roger, who was formally knighted last week by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in recognition of his outstanding work as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, is perhaps best known for his role as Her Majesty’s Secret Service Agent 007, James Bond. He starred in several extremely popular Bond films, including Live and Let Die, The Spy Who Loved Me, For Your Eyes Only, Octopussy and A View to Kill.
During his visit to Cambodia, Sir Roger will travel to Kampot, Cambodia’s major salt-producing province, to discuss with salt producers the importance of increasing production and distribution of iodized salt. Sir Roger will also have an audience with His Majesty, King Norodom Sihanouk, and will urge senior government officials to ensure quick passage and strict enforcement of a new law requiring all salt either produced or imported into Cambodia to be iodized.
Iodine is an essential micronutrient that is necessary for the normal functioning and development of the brain and body. Children born into households where iodized salt is not consumed are at risk of developing mental and physical disabilities caused by Iodine Deficiency Disorder (IDD).
In Cambodia, it is estimated that less than 15 per cent of households currently consume iodized salt, putting hundreds of thousands of children at risk of IDD. A nationwide survey in 1997 found that 12 per cent of school children between the ages of 8-12 suffered from goitre, a swelling of the thyroid gland, indicating that IDD is a major public health threat in Cambodia.
While the worst cases of IDD can cause severe mental retardation, such as cretinism, even mild iodine deficiency can result in a significant loss in learning ability. Where IDD is prevalent, it can lower the intelligence quotient (IQ) of a population by as much as 13 points, with serious implications for a country’s future human and economic development. In childhood, iodine deficiency can also result in speech and hearing defects, delayed motor development and impaired physical growth. Other effects of iodine deficiency include goitre, and in women a higher risk of stillbirth and miscarriage.
As a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, Sir Roger has made advocating for the elimination of IDD – as well as raising funds to combat it – a priority. In addition to his work for UNICEF, Sir Roger serves as honorary chair of Kiwanis International's Worldwide Service Project to raise US$ 75 million for eliminating IDD.
During his mission to Cambodia, Sir Roger will also meet with members of the National Sub-committee for Control of IDD to discuss strategies for improving public awareness of the problem of IDD and the benefits of iodized salt consumption.
Sir Roger was introduced to UNICEF by the actress Audrey Hepburn, another dedicated UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, and was appointed a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in 1991. Over the years he has visited UNICEF projects in Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Slovenia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Ghana and Indonesia. He has also traveled extensively to support the activities of UNICEF national committees, which are responsible for fundraising and advocacy in industrialized countries around the world.
Born and raised in south London, Sir Roger went to art school with the intention of becoming a painter. But his work as a film extra attracted attention and won him a place at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. He subsequently joined the Cambridge Arts Theatre, which led to roles on stage in London’s West End.
Sir Roger subsequently found success in a variety of film and television productions. He first came to wide recognition in the British television series The Saint.
A press conference with Sir Roger and H.E. Kim Saysamalen, Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Planning, and Chairperson of the Inter-ministerial Technical Committee for the National Council for Nutrition, is scheduled for Friday, October 24, 3:30 p.m., at the Ministry of Planning.
For further information on the visit of Sir Roger to Cambodia, or for media organizations interested in accompanying Sir Roger on his visit to Kompot (departing Phnom Penh the morning of October 23, returning the morning of October 24), please contact:
Mark Thomas, UNICEF Cambodia,
023 426 214 (ext. 206) or 012 553 594
Taeko Okitsu, UNICEF Cambodia,
023 426 214 (ext. 659) or 012 477 316
Tan Try, UNICEF Cambodia,
023 426 214 (203) or 012 827 445
What is IDD?
When a foetus does not receive adequate iodine, the developing brain cannot establish as dense a network of interconnections among the main brain cells and intellectual capacity is compromised for life. In extreme cases children can suffer severe mental retardation, but even where iodine deficiency is less severe all children suffer a reduction of 10-15 percent in learning ability at school. Iodine Deficiency Disorders (IDD) are rightly recognised as the world’s leading preventable mental and development disabilities.
What is iodine?