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Experts meet to ensure all children in Uzbekistan stay healthy through consuming iodized salt

Tashkent October 21st 2009 – Experts from the Ministry of Health, UNICEF and other key partners met at the Tashkent Paediatric Institutes National Nutrition Investment Centre today to take stock of progress in eliminating iodine deficiency disorders in Uzbekistan through achieving universal salt iodization. They also sought to chart a course for future actions.

Dr. Chandrakant S. Pandav, of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi is aiding the Ministry of Health and UNICEF push the project forward. ‘Excellent progress has been made to date’ he said. ‘In ten years we’ve covered over half of all families in Uzbekistan, the focus now is on reaching the rest.’

Iodized salt staves off iodine deficiency disorder (IDD). IDD can cause not only visible ailments such as goitre.but more importantly inhibit brain development among young children leading to loss of 10 to 15 IQ points. Pregnant mothers suffering from iodine deficiency often have still born babies.

In addressing the experts, Dr. Pandav, who is also the Founder Member and Director for South Asia of International Council for Iodine Deficiency Disorders (ICCIDD), an international NGO,  noted the necessity of the three I’s’ in rolling back the danger of IDD in Uzbekistan. ‘I one’ is iodizing salt and making sure it meets international standards. ‘I two’ is about information and communication – getting the message out to producers and consumers that iodized salt saves lives. ‘I three’ means solid intersectoral coordination to effectively push forward the programme.

With solid infrastructure, political will and international cooperation, Uzbekistan has made great strides in salt iodization in a short time. With UNICEF support, the country aims to entirely eliminate IDD by 2011. Key legislation was brought in 2007 and practical steps such as tax free imports for iodization machinery have sped the process on.

Yet the good laws need strengthening with bylaws and a solid implementation plan. This should include as to which agency has the legal authority to collect iodised salt samples and which laboratory test results are accepted.  And an intersectoral committee, with a high level chairperson is key to all.

Dr. Pandav believes that IDD is far more than a health issue; it directly impacts on national output through severely stunting individual productivity, as well placing heavier burdens on state care. Consistent political commitment at the highest level, combined with practical push on the ground will see more children survive and thrive and GDP continue to rise.




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