Two out of three households consume iodized salt in the developing world.
The regions of Latin America/Caribbean and East Asia/Pacific have nearly achieved the goal of universal salt iodization. Yet only half of households in the CEE/CIS and South Asia regions consume iodized salt.
An iodine-deficient diet results in insufficient thyroid hormone production, which can prevent normal growth in the brain and nervous system and lead to poor school performance, reduced intellectual ability and impaired work capacity. Iodine deficiency is particularly damaging during early pregnancy and childhood, yet it is easily preventable through the iodization of salt.
In 1990, few developing countries had large-scale salt-iodization programmes, and fewer than one in five households were estimated to consume adequately iodized salt. As a result, about 1.7 billion people, or 32 per cent of the developing world population, lived at risk of iodine deficiency disorders (IDD).15
The campaign to eliminate iodine deficiency through universal salt iodization has succeeded in boosting the proportion of developing-world households that consume iodized salt to 69 per cent – and 82 million newborns are now being protected every year from IDD-caused learning disabilities.
Yet large differences in levels of iodized salt consumption exist among regions. The highest levels are recorded in Latin America/Caribbean (86 per cent) and East Asia/Pacific (85 per cent); in sub-Saharan Africa 64 per cent of households consume iodized salt. The lowest level (47 per cent) is recorded in CEE/CIS. The current round of Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS) will update information on iodized salt consumption and is expected to document significant improvements, particularly in CEE/CIS.
In 33 countries, less than half of households consume iodized salt, and each year 37 million newborns in the developing world are unprotected from the lifelong consequences of brain damage associated with IDD.
15 Calculations are based on latest available estimates of iodized salt consumption during 1998–2004 for 97 countries, covering 95 per cent of the developing world’s population.