50pc population fears iodine deficiency risks: Speakers

LAHORE - Speakers at a seminar here Wednesday have revealed that more than half of the population of Pakistan fears risks of iodine deficiency and the Iodine Deficiency Disorders (IDD) is also big a threat to the health of children and pregnant women. They said this while addressing the Media Dissemination Workshop on IDD/USI held at the Directorate General of Health Services Punjab. Chaudhry Aslam Ghuman, Director General Health, Punjab Dr Noor Ahmad Khan, Director Pakistan, the Micronutrient Initiative (MI) and other senior health officers also participated in the seminar. Dr Noor Ahmad Khan while highlighting the importance of the use of iodine told that according to the National Nutrition Survey (2001-2002) more than half of Pakistan's total population was at the risk of iodine deficiency. He said that deficiency of iodine decreased child survival and impaired their growth and normal development while this deficiency among pregnant women could also cause miscarriages, stillbirths and other complications. "Children with IDD grow up stunted, apathetic, mentally retarded and incapable of normal movements, speech or hearing", Dr Noor Ahmad said. He added that it was only with longer and severe deficiency of iodine, that goiter formation took place. "If not addressed this iodine deficiency can alone result in mental impairment of 2.1 million Pakistani children", he warned. The Nutrition Wing, Ministry of Health (MoH) with the assistance of the Micronutrient Initiative (MI) revitalised the Universal Salt Iodisation Programme (USIP) in Pakistan, during 2005-06. Dr Noor Ahmad further said that after the successful implementation of USI/IDD programme in 20 pilot districts of Pakistan, it was extended to another 29 districts of NWFP, AJK, FANA and FATA. "Considering the magnitude of the problem in Punjab, the Health Department has requested the MI to assist them for expansion of IDD/USI programme, to another 16 district of Punjab contributing 58 per cent (MI-OS) production of edible salt in the province. Currently IDD/USI programme is implemented in 20 districts of Punjab with technical and financial assistance of the MI", he said. He further said that in order to make this programme a success, a two pronged strategy for simultaneous focus on push and pull factors had been adopted in Punjab. On one side salt processors were educated and provided with necessary paraphernalia to produce adequately iodised salt while on the other hand advocacy and sensitisation sessions were conducted for strategic stakeholders. Addressing on the occasion, Dr Muhammad Aslam Chaudhry, Director General Health Punjab said the Health Department was committed to eliminate iodine deficiency. He said edible salt iodisation had increased from base line of 14 per cent (MI-OS) to 73 per cent at production level. He said that the Health Department had nominated District Focal Persons at each target district who were trained with the support of the MI for monitoring and supervision of USI-P. More than 660 salt processors were being trained on methods and techniques of salt iodisation to maintain quality and standard of iodisation. The DG Health further said that free iodisation equipment (drip feed sets) had been provided to all salt processors with the financial assistance of the MI adding that uninterrupted and regular supply of iodine at district level had been ensured. "The MI has facilitated the formation of District IDD Control Committees under the chairmanship of DCOs and salt processors associations in the target districts. He added that the Punjab Health Department and the MI had facilitated the approval of district level legislations on compulsory salt iodisation through District Assemblies of Multan, Faisalabad, Gujranwala and Narowal. He informed that more than 4000 kg of potassium iodate had been provided at subsidised rates to salt processors while 11,000 free rapid test kits (RTKs) had been supplied both to salt processors and district monitors to ensure production of adequately iodised salt. He said that sensitisation trainings of more than 1600 medical officers, 1300 lady health supervisors, 300 sanitary and food inspectors had been completed on IDD/USI in Punjab with the assistance of the Micronutrient Initiative (MI) to promote the use of iodised salt in the province. Chaudhry Aslam said that over 85,000 metric tons of adequately iodised edible salt had been processed through more than 660 trained salt processors under this initiative. Districts of Multan, Kasur, Nankana and Chakwal were taking lead by iodising more than 90 per cent of edible salt processed in these districts, he concluded. Talking to the newsmen on the occasion the DG Health said that the department had taken all necessary actions to combat the challenge of dengue fever. He said special focus was being given to the dengue fever hit areas that fall in Northern Lahore. He said that people should not be worried about the outbreak of dengue fever in the City as the said disease had the lowest mortality rate, which was only one per cent.