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Salt traders team up to fight IDD in Uttar Pradesh
" UNICEF State Representative Dr Nimal Hettiaratchy (in blue jacket), flanked by Salt Commissioner S Sunderesan (L) and Project Director - Nutrition, UNICEF (UP), Dr Sheila Vir (R). "

Lucknow, September 8: It may seem a little hard to gauge and still harder to believe that the deficiency of a micro-nutrient like iodine, of which our body requires a mere 150 mcg per day, totaling to just about a heaped spoonful in our entire lifetime, can cause permanent damage to the body both physical and mental.

Brain damage, low IQs in kids and sluggishness in the adults are some of the common iodine-deficiency disorders (IDD). While every age group requires the daily dose of iodine, its usage is particularly important for pregnant mothers and children as iodine is vital for brain development both during the foetal and later stages of a child’s growth. Universal consumption of iodized salt is, therefore, critical to ensure that everyone gets their daily dose of iodine.

Unfortunately, in the northern and most populous state of India, Uttar Pradesh, a sizeable percentage of population is still not getting their quota of this miracle nutrient through iodized salt; thus many suffer from IDD.

A mapping of salt wholesalers was done in the state of Uttar Pradesh in 2002, probably the first such study done in the world. It revealed that salt in Uttar Pradesh is supplied by 355 wholesalers of which 126 are concentrated in 15 districts of the state, who together control 80% of the total salt procured and sold in the state.

A strategy hence has been devised to sensitize the salt wholesalers in the state and to apprise them of the grave consequences of not using iodized salt.

On September 7, 2006, a meeting of salt wholesalers of the state was called jointly by the Department of Health, Institute of Entrepreneur Development, Academy of Management Studies and UNICEF, to explore ways of combating IDD.
“With 57% population still not consuming iodized salt with recommended level of iodine, there are 25 lakh newborns in this state who are at risk of being born with irreversible brain damage due to IDD in mothers. Besides 50% of our school-going children are at risk of losing 10-15 IQ points if they do not consume iodized salt daily,” explained Sheila Vir, Project Officer-Nutrition, UNICEF, addressing the traders. She urged them to ensure that iodized salt reaches every household in Uttar Pradesh.

“The cost of iodine per person per year comes to a meager half Rupee: this is surely a small price to pay to prevent serious lifetime damage to our children,” emphasized Dr Nimal Hettiaratchy, State Representative, UNICEF.

The Salt Commissioner of India, S Sundaresan, who had been specially called for the meeting, said it was critical to sensitize wholesalers because their cooperation in achieving the goal of universal consumption of iodized salt was crucial.

The salt traders were able to resolve a number of issues related to the supply and marketing of iodized salt in the state and committed themselves to accelerate the goal of universal consumption of iodized salt.
Seeing such initiative it seems that the day is not far when every child in Uttar Pradesh will be protected against IDD.

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