Vietnam effforts to reduce iodine deficiency in children

Ha Noi, Nov. 2 (VNA) -- The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has commended the Government of Viet Nam on its efforts to protect children from the harmful effects of Iodine Deficiency Disorder (IDD).

Severe iodine deficiency has been eliminated in 49 of Viet Nam's 61 provinces and cities and it is anticipated that in the near future, iodine deficiency can be eliminated throughout the country.

Thanks to the Government's Universal Salt Iodisation (USI) programme and the introduction of laws mandating the compulsory use of iodized salt, more than 80 percent of all Vietnamese households now consume iodized salt, and approximately 63 percent of the population have normal iodine levels.

"The Government has made impressive strides in curbing the prevalence of IDD among Vietnamese children," said UNICEF Country Representative Morten Giersing. "UNICEF will continue supporting the Government's USI programme in order to prevent more children falling victim to this disabling disorder," he added.

Less than one decade ago, the majority of children in Viet Nam suffered from IDD. Since the Government's introduction of its USI programme in 1994, IDD among children has been reduced to approximately 37 percent and continues to decline.

While these accomplishments are impressive, there is still much work to be done. For example, the 12 provinces of the Mekong Delta continue to lag behind the rest of the country in terms of using iodized salt and reducing IDD.

A meeting to promote the use of iodized salt among the people was held in Ha Noi today, Nov. 2, in the presence of National Assembly Chairman Nong Duc Manh, Health Minister Do Nguyen Phuong, UNICEF country Representative Morten Giersing, and a representative from the Belgian Embassy in Viet Nam.

Chairman Manh praised the achievements already more in preventing disorders caused by iodine deficiency over the past five years, and thanked foreign countries and organizations for assisting Viet Nam in this task.

UNICEF has provided training for technicians in iodine production plants and introduced monitoring support systems in 40 iodized salt plants throughout Viet Nam to ensure product quality.

It has organized communication activities for national Iodine Deficiency Disorder Day, and has developed information materials encouraging the use of iodized salt. It has focused a great deal of its communication activities on the 12 Mekong Delta provinces with low USI coverage.

UNICEF has also supported the organization of a national survey on iodine deficiency disorder, which will enable the Government to better address iodine deficiency problems in the future.

This year, UNICEF spent USD 85,000 of its regular resources in support of the Government's USI efforts.