New Delhi, Apr 20: The consumption of iodised salt by households has increased by 20 percent during the last three years, yet 43 percent population in 254 endemic districts have no access to iodised salt which could go a long way in reducing brain damage, lower IQ and goitor among people.
To achieve the goal of universal salt iodisation which is the cheapest and most effective means to prevent Iodine deficiency disorder, a National Coalition for Sustained Iodine Intake was launched today.
Announcing the formation of the coalition, Health Secretary P K Hota said the ministry supported by the Indian Coalition for Control of Iodine Deficiency Disorder (ICCIDD) and UNICEF would make unstinted efforts in its mission to eliminate iodine deficiency disorders through the Universal Salt Iodization strategy. The coalition would monitor the porgress and advise the government on best way to achieve sustained universal salt iodisation in India.
The coalition would advise the government in accelerating progress towards achieving universal salt iodisation in India as it would go a long way in reducing brain damage and low IQ among children. The nodal body would make efforts to ensure sustained and adequate iodine intake for every Indian through salt iodisation.
It would also help in the proper implementation of the legal ban on sale of non-iodised salts that would come into effect from May 17, UNICEF representative in India Cecilio Adorna told reporters here today.
He said that a recent survey conducted by the UNICEF showed that there has been a marked increased in the consumption of iodised salt across India from 37 per cent to 57 per cent during the past three years which meant that an additional six million Indian children were now protected against brain damage.
''An additional six million children protected against brain damage can only be good news. Each year, Iodine Deficiency exposes millions of children in the country to a host of deficiency disorders caused by inadequate iodine in their diet. Simply adding iodine to their salt can easily avert this tragedy. And all it takes is 10 paisa per person per year to iodised salt,'' he said.
All ready 14 states have started selling iodised salt through Public Distribution System with Chhatisgarh providing it at the minimal cost of 25 Paisa per kg, said Mr Bejon Misra of Consumer Voice Voluntary Organisation in Interst of Consumer Education (VOICE). He said that efforts are on to make iodised salt available to all through various means like inclusion in mid-day meals, testing at schools and awareness creation.
''Iodine deficiency is the single largest casue of mental retardation in India. However, cause and effect are not clearly associated in people's mind , which makes the situation so alarming,'' informed Dr Chandrakant S Pandav, Prof and Head of the Centre for Community Medicine at AIIMS. The regional coordinator ICCIDD said that iodine deficiency was destroying the brains of our children and this is going unnoticed.
Experience from across the world in countries like China, Peru Australia, Thailand, Switzerland, Bhutan have shown that multi-sectoral bodies working together to achieve universal salt iodization have been very effective. So the new Indian coalition would also play a major role in this regard, Mr Adorna said. The Indian coalition would have Health Ministry, Department of women and Child Development, Department of Education, Department of Industry, Experts and scientists and representatives of salt producers and traders, NGOs and consumer organisations.
Mr Jack Ling of ICCIDD said that deficiency of Iodine causes brain damage among foetus, loss of IQ upto 13 points, goitor which ulitmately causes reduced productivity and economic development which globally causes loss of about 2 billion to 4 billion dollars per annum globally. Universalisation of salt is the most common, cheap and effective method to prevent it and India should also make efforts in making iodised salt available to all the children.
In India, out of 312 districts surveyed by the health ministry 254 have been found to be endemic to iodine deficiency. The consumption of iodised salt is significantly low among rural masses, economically backward classes and members of SC/ST.
Larger refineries produced only 1.3 million tonnes of iodised salts while 3.8 million tonnes is manufactured by the small and medium salt producers against the annual requirement of 5.2 million tonnes. In 2004, production of iodised salt has reached 4.6 million tonnes. Now the producers are being convinced to produce only iodised salt and make it available cheaply in rural areas, the experts said.
Pointing out that even crude salt could be iodised, they said that it could be made available cheaply as the cost increases only by refining and branding of the product.