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LVIV REGION PIONEERS ELIMINATION OF IODINE DEFICIENCY IN UKRAINE

 Local initiative successful in boosting iodine nutrition among school children

Lviv/Kiev, Ukraine - 24 October 2006 - A project that aims to eliminate iodine deficiency disorders in the Lviv region of western Ukraine has significantly increased the intake of iodine in children thus ensuring that they will grow up more intelligent.

The results of a school-based survey have demonstrated that the general population in Lviv region has sufficient iodine nutrition. Children surveyed display normal levels of iodine in their bodies that is 60 per cent higher than the otherwise alarmingly low national average. Sixty-five per cent of households in Lviv are now consuming iodised salt in comparison with the national figure of only 31 per cent.

By increasing and sustaining the intake of iodised salt, children in Lviv will be protected from the irreversible mental and cognitive damage associated with iodine deficiency - a nationwide public health problem in Ukraine.

The results of the epidemiological survey conducted for the project 'Lviv Region - an IDD free region' will be presented on 25 October in Lviv at a National Conference on the Elimination of Iodine Deficiency Disorders and Control of Food Safety organised by the Ministry of Health with support from UNICEF.

The project, to increase the availability and demand for iodised salt in Lviv, was developed and has been implemented by the local non-governmental organisation For a Common Future since 2004 with strong support from the regional administration. Funding for the project was provided by the U.K. Committee for UNICEF.

The success of the project is due to a multi-sectoral approach that has built on existing government structures. The local authorities issued a regulation to ensure that all retail outlets in the oblast that sell salt must sell iodised salt. The regulation was accompanied by a monitoring system, a public communication campaign and training for local health care specialists, teachers and community workers on the benefits and cost effectiveness of adequate iodine nutrition.

"Lviv is an inspiring example of what political commitment can do at the oblast level," said Jeremy Hartley, UNICEF Representative in Ukraine. "But to ensure that all children in Ukraine are protected from brain damage associated with iodine deficiency, this commitment needs to be reflected at the highest political level. To eliminate iodine deficiency disorders in Ukraine, the introduction and implementation of a national law on universal salt iodisation is vital."

Low levels of iodine in the soil, lack of awareness and poverty make iodine deficiency a serious problem for the health of children and the wider population in Ukraine. Eighty per cent of all newborns are at risk of incurring irreversible mental and cognitive damage due to low iodine intake of their mothers during the foetal period. During early childhood, a diet poor in micronutrients puts children further at risk of impaired mental function and other iodine deficiency related disorders such as goitre.

The Government of Ukraine committed itself to eliminate iodine deficiency by 2005 through the endorsement of the 2002 UN Special Session on Children Outcome Document A World Fit For Children. Despite this fact, Ukraine has not yet adopted legislation on mandatory salt iodisation, the most effective, safe and cost efficient strategy for the elimination of iodine deficiency disorders.

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For nearly 60 years UNICEF has been the world's leader for children, working on the ground in 157 countries to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world's largest provider of vaccines for poor countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, 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.

 

For more information:

Dmytro Konyk, Communication Officer, UNICEF Ukraine

Tel: (+380) 44 230 25 14, Email: dkonyk@unicef.org

Anna Sukhodolska, Communication Assistant, UNICEF Ukraine

Tel: (+380) 44 230 25 14, Email: asukhodolska@unicef.org

 

 

 
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