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Micronutrients and Hidden Hunger

© UNICEF/DR/2003/Gonzalez

The lack of vitamins and minerals such as vitamin A, iodine and iron, is the main cause of “hidden hunger” and malnutrition in the world today.

“Vitamin and mineral deficiency is the source of the most massive ‘hidden hunger’ and malnutrition in the world today. The ‘hidden hunger’ due to micronutrient deficiency does not produce hunger as we know it. You might not feel it in the belly, but it strikes at the core of your health and vitality. It remains widespread, posing devastating threats to health, education, economic growth and to human dignity in developing countries.” (Kul C. Gautam, Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF).

Hidden hunger prevents children from achieving the full development of their physical, intellectual and social potential.
The UNICEF office in the Dominican Republic is providing financial and technical support for the Public Health and Social Assistance Ministry (SESPAS) in the implementation of activities aimed at eliminating micronutrient deficiencies, by providing vitamin A supplements as part of their Extended Immunisation Programme, as well as the universal iodising of salt in order to eliminate iodine deficiency disorders.

Actions aimed at improving monitoring and improving public education about the importance of consuming iodised salt are also being supported. Other actors like the Ministry of Education, the General Standards and Regulations Office, salt manufacturers, municipal authorities and the consumers’ association are also involved in this process, as well as the WHO/PAHO and USAID, who are providing technical and financial support together with UNICEF.

UNICEF is focusing its activities on the 3.5 million children and adolescents and 240,000 pregnant mothers, taking into account that this age group is at the greatest risk of developing iodine deficiency.

In order to calculate the levels of iodine content in salt for human consumption, a study carried out by SESPAS through the Dr. Defilló National Laboratory was carried out. It revealed that 67% did not contain iodine and that only 13.7% of the samples analysed contained levels of iodine within the limits established by the state standards that sets the range at between 30-100 parts per million (ppm).

(Source: SESPAS; PAHO/WHO; UNICEF: Calculating the Concentration of Iodine in Nutritional Quality Salt at national level, at point of sale, between July 2003-February 2004, 2005.)

Likewise, UNICEF, as a basis for establishing its Information, Education and Communications strategy, sponsored a study on Behaviours, Attitudes and Practices that showed that 75% of the population still consumes rock salt even though this is forbidden under Dominican law (NORDOM 14).

(Source: SESPAS; UNICEF; Sinergy Consulting: Study of Knowledge, Beliefs, Attitudes and Practices concerning Iodised Salt consumption in Dominican Homes and the Communications Media)

The studies carried out revealed a lack of knowledge about the importance of consuming iodised salt, and based on this, UNICEF is promoting education and social mobilisation as one of the key points for achieving behaviour changes that will ensure children and young people’s right to health.

Government institutions are also being supported in the Sentinel Schools, for educating students about the importance of consuming iodised salt and the introduction of a system to monitor iodine levels in salt in schools.

Promoting the importance of iodised salt consumption has been directed at the Haitian population in the frontier zone as well as the Dominican public. This has been achieved by producing radio programmes in Kreyol as well as in Spanish. Local organisations that work with women in the border area have been given support for holding educational workshops about Iodine Deficiency Disorders.

 

Ministry of Health bans sale of rock salt

 

 

 

 

Which foods contain Iodine?

Iodine can be found mainly in fish and shellfish and in some vegetables that are cultivated in iodine rich soil.

Only a tiny amount of Iodine is needed in a person’s daily diet (150 - 300 milligrams), meaning that just one teaspoon of iodine is all we need to consume in our whole lifetime.


Correct Iodised Salt

Correct iodised salt contains between 30 and 100 parts of iodine for each one million parts of salt (50/100 ppm), according to Dominican regulation requirements (NORDOM 14)


Iodine Deficiency Disorders

IDDs are reversible or irreversible health problems caused by insufficient iodine consumption, affecting the production of thyroid hormones, which are essential for the development and function of the brain, the nervous system and basal metabolism of the body.
Examples of this are: Goitre, Hypothyroidism, Cretinism, reproductive problems and infant mortality, among others.


What are Micronutients?

Micronutrients are essential compounds (vitamins and minerals) that are needed in small quantities for the effective growth and development of the human organism.


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