|© UNICEF Armenia/E.Sahakyan|
|UNICEF Representative in Armenia Sheldon Yett (left) hands over a plaque, acknowledging elimination of iodine deficiency in Armenia through universal salt iodization, to Minister of Health Norayr Davidyan (right).|
In a ceremony held today to mark this achievement, the UNICEF Representative in Armenia, Sheldon Yett, presented a plaque to the Ministry of Health of Armenia, which recognizes the Government of Armenia’s success in its long standing campaign to eliminate iodine deficiency disorders as a public health problem. The plaque was presented on behalf of the Network for Sustained Elimination of Iodine Deficiency, the International Council for Control of Iodine Deficiency Disorders, UNICEF and the World Health Organization.
“Elimination of iodine deficiency in Armenia is a remarkable achievement and represents a significant contribution to the protection and improvement of health and well-being of children in this country,” the UNICEF Representative in Armenia emphasized. He added that “some 20 million children in developing countries are affected by iodine deficiency each year and every single case can be prevented with the use of iodized salt.”
Iodine deficiency is the world’s leading cause of preventable mental retardation among children. While the worst cases of iodine deficiency can cause severe mental retardation, such as cretinism, even mild iodine deficiency can result in a significant loss in learning ability. Other effects include increased risk of stillbirth, miscarriage, and goiter for women and learning difficulties for children. Salt iodization is the most effective and sustainable way to prevent iodine deficiency disorders (IDD) because salt is widely consumed and iodization is safe and inexpensive. Eliminating IDD through the promotion of the use of iodized salt is a key component of UNICEF’s mission to ensure that every child has the opportunity to survive, develop and achieve his/her developmental potential.
In 1995, the Ministry of Health jointly with UNICEF, conducted a study which indicated that over 50% of pregnant women were suffering from iodine deficiency. Since 1997 UNICEF, the Ministry of Health, and the Avan Salt Factory have been working together to eliminate iodine deficiency in Armenia through universal salt iodization. The efforts were funded in part through contributions from the US Agency for International Development (USAID).
“Ministry of Health attaches great importance to the issue of iodine deficiency in Armenia and is taking steps to ensure the sustainability of the Universal Salt Iodization in Armenia,” Minister of Health Norayr Davidyan said.
A nationally representative survey of school children carried out last year by UNICEF, the Ministry of Health and the International Council for the Control of Iodine Deficiency Disorders (ICCIDD) found that the proportion of households consuming adequately iodized salt has increased to 97% from 70% in 1998. The 2005 survey also found that urinary concentrations of iodine were sufficiently high.
“The achievement of universal salt iodization means that 40,000 children born in Armenia each year are now being protected from the consequences of iodine deficiency,” the UNICEF Representative said. As the survey noted, strengthened monitoring and regulatory systems are now required to sustain this achievement,” the Representative added.
For 60 years UNICEF has been the world’s leader for children, working on the ground in 156 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.
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