Latest opening to continue fight against goitre, still births and other Iodine Deficiency Disorders
KABUL, 15 January 2004 – A simple but effective solution for preventing Iodine Deficiency Disorders—iodised salt—will now be more readily available in the Northern Region of Afghanistan with the inauguration next week of a salt iodation plant in Shebergan.
The opening ceremony will be held 19 January, 11AM, at the Pul-e-Khorasan site in Shebergan. In attendance will be representatives from the provincial government, the health sector, as well as the UN, NGO and donor communities. Members of the media, interested in covering this event, are invited to contact the UNICEF office in Kabul.
Iodine Deficiency Disorders (IDD) refers to the ill-effects from the body lacking iodine, a mineral found in soil and which can also be added in the process of salt production. IDD includes still births, low birth weight in newborns, cretinism, goitre and hearing impairment. The deficiency has also been shown to reduce average IQ by as much as 10 to 15 percentage points.
“Geographically, Afghanistan belongs in the iodine deficient regions of South and Central Asia,” said United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Representative in Afghanistan, Dr. Sharad Sapra. “The consequences of IDD can be considered as an emergency that requires immediate action to reduce the suffering of millions of women and children, making the widespread provision of iodised salt all the more critical.”
The Shebergan plant will have the capacity to produce 5 metric tonnes of iodised salt per day. Together with a similar factory opened last autumn in Taloqan, and one slated to open this spring in Faryab, the three plants will be able to produce enough iodised salt on a daily basis to meet the needs of the entire population of the Northern Region. The ongoing establishment of fully functional salt iodation factories in Afghanistan—with two last year, and eight more planned this year after Shebergan—is the result of a joint project between the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Mines and Industries, and local cooperatives of salt producers. UNICEF assists in this process with both technical and material input. The aim in 2004 is to increase the availability of iodised salt to 85 per cent of the population.
Among the guests invited to next Monday’s inauguration will be a representative of the Japanese Embassy, in recognition of Japan’s major contributions to the Universal Salt Iodation campaign in Afghanistan (USD798,000 donated to USD2.39 million budget in 2003, or 33 per cent).
From a more global perspective, given the growing knowledge about the devastating, health and economic impact of IDD, the international community has accepted the sustainable elimination of IDD as a priority in the field of health and nutrition, endorsing the goal at the 1990 World Summit for Children.
For more information, please contact:
Chulho Hyun, UNICEF Media – Kabul +93 (0)702 78493
Edward Carwardine, UNICEF Media – Kabul +93 (0)702 74729