19M newborns at risk of brain damage annually due to iodine deficiency
The report from the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and its partner, the Global Alliance of Improved Nutrition (GAIN), said that insufficient iodine during pregnancy and infancy results in neurological and psychological deficits, reducing a child’s IQ by 8 to 10 points.
“The nutrients a child receives in the earliest years of life influence their brain development for life, and can make or break their chance of a prosperous future,” said UNICEF Senior Nutrition Adviser Roland Kupka.
“By protecting and supporting children’s development in early life, we are able to achieve immense results for children throughout their lifespan,” he added.
He then noted that salt iodization is both cost effective and economically beneficial at only $0.02 to 0.05 per child annually.
Every dollar spent on salt iodization is estimated to return $30 through increased future cognitive ability, Kupka said.
As of now, while South Asia is home to the largest proportion of babies at risk globally, the region has the second highest iodized salt coverage rate at 87 percent of the population, preceded by East Asia and the Pacific at 91 percent coverage.
The lowest coverage with iodized salt was seen in Eastern and Southern Africa, where around 25 percent of the population do not have access to iodized salt, leaving 3.9 million babies every year unprotected against iodine deficiency disorders.