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New campaign strives to eliminate iodine deficiency disorders in Afghanistan

Multi-media approach aims to increase demands for iodised salt

KABUL, 17 April 2005 – With Afghanistan facing a high prevalence of iodine deficiency disorders, including mental retardation, physical stunting and goitre, a new campaign to be launched on Tuesday 19 April will encourage Afghan households to increase their consumption of iodised salt.

Recent surveys indicate that less than one-third of households in Afghanistan use iodised salt – the simplest, cheapest and most sustainable method to introduce iodine into the diet. Lack of iodine impairs normal brain development and is the leading cause of brain damage in childhood.  It also causes medical conditions such as goitre – the swelling of the thyroid gland – and is known to contribute to physical stunting amongst children. Iodine deficiency is believed to result in 500,000 babies being born each year in Afghanistan with intellectual impairment, while 70 per cent of school age children are iodine deficient. Lack of iodine is thought to result in a reduction in IQ by as much as 15 per cent, seriously undercutting the intellectual capacity of the entire country. 

The new campaign, led by the Ministry of Public Health with the support of UNICEF, builds upon a successful increase in the production of iodised salt following the establishment of ten iodised salt plants in Afghanistan since 2003. These plants now have the capacity to meet the population’s requirement of iodised salt; the new information campaign aims to increase demand from households.

Using the core message “for a healthy happy nation, use iodised salt every day”, the campaign utilises radio and television spots, posters and banners, and point-of-sale information leaflets that will show consumers the benefits of consuming iodised salt. The campaign also serves to help consumers recognise genuine iodised salt in the marketplace through the introduction of an official seal that identifies Government approved quality iodised salt. The costs of iodised salt are comparable to non-iodised salt – but the added value of iodised salt is, according to UNICEF Representative in Afghanistan Bernt Aasen, “immeasurable”.

“Lack of iodine is the root cause of a number of serious health conditions,” said Aasen “and yet we can tackle this problem in a relatively simple and effective way. By consuming iodised salt, families can better protect themselves against certain illnesses and can provide their children with an improved chance of physical and mental development.”

“Not only will the success of this campaign improve children’s health, but it will have a significant impact on the development of the nation itself,” Aasen added. “A generation of healthy and educated children is a prerequisite to a prosperous and productive nation; Afghanistan’s future depends upon such a physically and mentally healthy start for its children.”

UNICEF’s nutrition programmes, including the iodised salt initiative, are generously supported by a several international donors including Japan and the United States.

The new campaign will be officially launched by His Excellency Minister of Public Health Sayed Mohammad Amin Fatimi on Tuesday 19 April, at 10.00 am at the Ministry’s headquarters in Kabul.

For more information, please contact:

Edward Carwardine, UNICEF-Media, Kabul +93 (0) 702 74729




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