Iodine Deficiency (ID)

The Issue

The Challenges

UNICEF in action

Resources on Iodine Deficiency


Nutrition issues

© UNICEF/A.Timmer

The child nutrition situation in CEECIS is chronic and hidden 

The issues
Our region still has serious nutrition problems, marked by chronic malnutrition (stunting), vitamin and mineral deficiencies and increasingly children who are overweight. This is a particular disparity problem: the national averages distort the real situation. The consequences are that children suffer irreversible damage to physical growth, brain development and health. The youngest children, aged below two, from rural families are among the hardest hit.


The region also has one of the lowest levels of exclusive breastfeeding in the world. With just 22 per cent of babies exclusively breastfed until the age of six months, the region is on a par with West and Central Africa. Initiation of foods and fluids in addition to or replacing breastfeeding severely impacts the child’s growth, increases the chances of becoming overweight and depriving the infant of important maternal care. Infant formula marketing and violation of the International Code for marketing of breast milk substitutes are significant obstacles in most countries.

Iodine, Vitamin A and Iron
The region has the lowest proportion of households using iodized salt in the world at just 51%, leaving 2.5 million newborns with lower brain development (10-15 % of IQ) owing to iodine deficiency. This irreversible problem reduces their learning performance and income earning in later life. Vitamin A, iron and iodine deficiency are of special concern and require further accelerated action as they cause mortality (vitamin A) and delay child development in terms of cognitive and physical growth (iodine and iron).

Double burden

Children start off well in life, but then, from the age of two, growth deteriorates rapidly leading to the double burden of malnutrition. That double burden is stunting and being overweight occur at the same time. The cause is poor infant and young child nutrition.

UNICEF in Action
• Progress has been made especially with respect to elimination of IDD through universal salt iodization, vitamin A supplementation, the code for marketing of breast milk substitutes and the baby friendly hospital initiative. Thirty-seven per cent of births take place in baby friendly hospitals and 51 per cent of newborns are protected from brain damage owing to iodine deficiency.
• UNICEF is focusing on the major challenge of adequate complementary feeding practices, through behavior change communication and technical interventions like Sprinkles, a blend of micronutrients in powder form. They have been developed to help prevent and treat micro-nutrient deficiency among young children and pregnant women.
• UNICEF is a key player in the regional goal to eliminate iodine deficiency, convincing decision-makers, the public and salt producers of the importance of salt iodization and the cost of inaction.
• UNICEF takes a comprehensive approach to nutrition policy development, advocating for action and behaviour change to ensure child survival and development. To achieve a more sustainable development, partnerships with governments and the private sector are sought.





Related articles

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Armenia beats Iodine deficiency


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