School children shouting slogans and distributing leaflets to shopkeepers on the importance of iodized salt.
By Gurinder Gulati
School children of Shree Sharda Vinay Mandir in Bed village of Jamnagar district in the state of Gujarat were heard shouting slogans to promote the use of iodized salt in a rally organized on Global Iodine Deficiency Disorders (IDD) Prevention Day on 21 October 2005. UNICEF has been working closely with salt producers and Government of Gujarat to promote universal salt iodization.
Fifty per cent of children born every year in India are unprotected against Iodine Deficiency Disorders such as brain damage, deaf mutism, dwarfism and severely depleted levels of productivity.
Gujarat, with a long coastline of 1600 kms, produces nearly 70% (10,586 metric tonnes) of India’s total salt. Despite Gujarat being the largest salt producing state in the country, an analysis of the salt samples tested in various districts revealed that inadequate or no iodine content was found in the salt being used by households in six districts, namely Jamnagar (39%), Kutch (42%), Patan (18%), Rajkot (57%), Surendranagar (62%) and Valsad (29%).These districts are also major salt producing centres. Fifty per cent of children born every year in India are unprotected against Iodine Deficiency Disorders such as brain damage, deaf mutism, dwarfism and severely depleted levels of productivity.
UNICEF Gujarat office launched an IDD awareness campaign on Global IDD Prevention Day at a Higher Secondary School in Gandhinagar in collaboration with Health and Education Departments of Government of Gujarat to promote consumption of iodized salt.
Senior state officials and the UNICEF Representative of Gujarat addressed the audience on the importance of consuming iodized salt. A Gujarati folk drama was also staged to promote the use of iodized salt. In addition, the Health Department had put up a stall to demonstrate testing of salt for iodine content. An exhibition and display of models developed by school children, depicting the process of salt farming, manufacturing, supply, and distribution was also put up.
Debates and essay writing competitions were organized in 243 schools of the six selected districts to ensure children’s participation in the fight against IDD. The prize of a wall clock, awarded by UNICEF to the first three positions, motivated both boys and girls to participate in these competitions.
A demonstration model developed by school children of Gandhinagar on the production and iodization process of salt.
Jaideepsinh Jadeja, who stood third in the essay writing competition said, “If iodized salt is not used in cooking, a child is likely to be a dwarf.” Students were also able to relate the social concerns of people suffering from IDD. Bindu Sonagra said, “In our village, two people who had goiter always suffered from an inferiority complex”.
“My household salt turned light purple on testing, which made me realize that it is not adequately iodized. I then urged my mother and father to buy only iodized salt and they have agreed.”
Prior to the competitions, a salt-testing demonstration was held in all the schools. Children were asked to bring samples of salt being used in their households, which were tested for iodine content with the help of salt testing kits provided by UNICEF. This live experiment interested the children immensely and impressed upon them the importance of using iodized salt. Pragna Khakharia, student of class VIII, said, “My household salt turned light purple on testing, which made me realize that it is not adequately iodized. I then urged my mother and father to buy only iodized salt and they have agreed.”
Dr. Deepti Joshi, a Medical Officer, who had participated in the orientation of teachers and students on IDD and the importance of consuming iodized salt, remarked, “The rally of school children for propagating the use of iodized salt was really successful. On hearing children’s voices, people came out of their houses and listened carefully to the advice being given on the use of iodized salt only.”
Haresh Gosai, a local grocery shop owner in Bed said, “I heard children shouting slogans in favor of iodized salt. They also gave me a leaflet explaining the importance of iodized salt and the adverse effect use of non-iodized salt can have on the brain development of the children. I have read it carefully and have decided to sell iodized salt only.”
Bhanubhai Jani, who teaches English at Shree Sharda Vinay Mandir, said, “People, especially children have now grasped the importance of using iodized salt. The best thing that has happened is that it has promoted child to child interaction in the school regarding the issue and also parent to child interaction in families. Never before were parents and children seen discussing the quality of salt in their daily life.”