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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is rated 6th amongst countries where iodine deficiency is a serious public health issue. More than 60% of the population of Pakistan is at risk of Iodine Deficiency Disorders (IDD) due to delay in legislation on availability of iodized salt, warned the health experts at a seminar by TheNetwork held at a local hotel on Thursday.
The seminar on “Health Professionals’ Alliance on promotion of breastfeeding (BF) and Universal Salt Iodization (USI)” highlighted that non-implementation of rules to ensure exclusive breastfeeding among infants for six months has made the future generations of Pakistan vulnerable to various deadly diseases which are entirely preventable. “Only 30% of the health professionals of the country are aware of BF rules and approximately 2 million babies are born with iodine deficiency every year in Pakistan” which can lead to a loss of up to 15 IQ points and various psychological and physical impairments such as mental retardation and cretinism, informed the health experts.
Dr Zil-e-Huma, member of Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health was the chief guest of the seminar. Dr Zil-e-Huma ensured the implementation of breastfeeding rules and of legislation on iodized salt at parliamentary level. “I will make all efforts to get the iodine deficiency disorder bill passed from the cabinet” she pledged.
Dr. Cisse Mohamed, UNICEF Health and Nutrition Chief in Pakistan called IDD “an issue of vital importance which needs effective implementation of laws in order to improve the health of the children in Pakistan.”
Health professionals and medical students participated in the seminar which strengthened for advocacy campaign on implementation of BF Rules to improve optimal infant feeding practices and promotion of universal salt iodization for IDDs control. Participants indicated that IDD is also the single common cause of preventable brain damage and suggested the use of iodized salt in order to prevent IDD disorders.
Dr. Arif Azad, Executive Coordinator of TheNetwork informed that “according to UNICEF report ‘State of World’s Children 2009’ the exclusive BF rate in Pakistan was lowest among South Asian countries i.e. 37% and the latest data revealed that 74 out of 1000 infants under one year and 53 out of 1000 infants die before reaching the age of one & a half months in Pakistan.” “Health ministry has set the goal to ensure 100% availability of iodized salt in markets by 2015” he added.
Suggesting measures to improve the health standards in Pakistan, Dr. Khalida Waheed said that “bilingual posters at public places can help raise awareness among the masses.” A group of committed health experts was also proposed at the seminar.