We’re building a new UNICEF.org.
As we swap out old for new, pages will be in transition. Thanks for your patience – please keep coming back to see the improvements.

Press centre

News note

UNICEF issues major report on Iodine Deficiency highlighting principles for success

NEW YORK, 26 June 2008 – UNICEF today issued a major report on Iodine Deficiency Disorders (IDD), the single greatest cause of preventable mental retardation, which looks at progress made in preventing the problem over the past two decades, lessons learned and guiding principles for future success.

IDD results from a diet low in iodine, which is particularly damaging during early pregnancy because it retards foetal development, especially brain development, causing a range of intellectual, motor and hearing deficits. However the problem is easily and inexpensively prevented by iodizing all salt for human and animal consumption, highlights the report, Sustainable Elimination of Iodine Deficiency.

“This report shows how governments, the salt industry and communities, with UNICEF support, have made great progress over the past 20 years in eliminating iodine deficiency through universal salt iodization,” said Werner Schultink, Associate Director of Nutrition, UNICEF. “But there is still much to do to ensure every child is protected.”

Partnerships have been crucial for this achievement. Organizations such as the International Council for the Control of Iodine Deficiency Disorders, Kiwanis, the Micronutrient Initiative, Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, Centers for Disease Control have all worked in partnership with governments and the salt industry, supported by donor governments and organizations.

“Thirty-four countries have achieved universal salt iodization however there are still 38 million children born every year at risk of brain damage because of iodine deficiency so there’s no room for complacency in our efforts to combat the problem,” added Mr. Schultink.

Along with those countries that have achieved universal salt iodization, two global regions are also close to this target, namely Latin America and the Caribbean where 85 per cent of households consume adequately iodized salt, and East Asia and the Pacific, where the figure is 84 per cent.

Nevertheless other regions face severe challenges and the report outlines five guiding principles based on the lessons learned over the past 20 years for successfully completing the global fight to eliminate IDD:

• Secure political commitment: Robust, continuous government commitment and industry motivation are essential.
• Form partnerships and coalitions: Partnerships between governments and donors, between governments and salt producers, and among all those supporting elimination efforts need to be strengthened at all levels.
• Ensure availability of adequately iodized salt: The salt industry must recognize iodization as a fundamental responsibility; governments must work with salt producers to improve their capacity; and producers must maintain and improve this capacity.
• Strengthen monitoring systems: A continuous and effective monitoring system is essential. Three types of monitoring are needed, covering the salt iodization process from the factory to the household, the impact on a population’s iodine levels, and the overall sustainability of the programme.
• Maintain education and communication: Communication efforts should articulate concrete accountabilities and include specific messages tailored to the entire range of audiences, including national leaders, the salt industry, the media, technical and professional groups, teachers and families.

UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, 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 further information, please contact:

Brian Hansford, UNICEF Media NY, +1 212 326 7269, bhansford@unicef.org

Kate Donovan, UNICEF Media NY, +1 212 326 7452, Kdonovan@unicef.org




New enhanced search