Salt in UNICEF's cake of success

Published: Wednesday 15 February 1995

-- There is bad news for the UNICEF's universal salt iodisation programme. Field investigations by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) contradicts the UN body's contention that by next year iodine deficiency disorders among Indian children will become preventable.

The AIIMS study of the endemic state of Uttar Pradesh shows that in Gorakhpur, Varanasi, and Dehradun districts, about 67.4 per cent children tested suffered iodine deficiency. In most zones the range varied from 60 to 75 per cent.

These figures seem all the more depressing, because sale of non-iodised salt had been banned in Gorakhpur and Dehradun way back in 1966. A state-wide ban had been imposed in 1987.

In 1992, UNICEF had come forward to help the Indian government meet with its commitment of eliminating iodine deficiency disorders by 2000. It now seems certain that the deadline will slip by.

Iodine deficiency has given India 2.2 million cretins, 6.6 million children with mild neurological disorders, and 97 million children suffering from goitre. Poor implementation of legislations and weak monitoring systems has aggravated the situation. The AIIMS study warns that goals will remain distant dreams unless monitoring is strengthened and made more stringent.

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