Micronutrients - Iodine, Iron and Vitamin A

Micronutrients - Iodine, Iron and Vitamin A

The importance of micronutrients Iodine, Iron and Vitamin A in the diet of children.

Deficiencies of micronutrients are a major global health problem. More than 2 billion people in the world today are estimated to be deficient in key vitamins and minerals, particularly vitamin A, iodine, iron and zinc. Most of these people live in low-income countries and are typically deficient in more than one micronutrient. Deficiencies occur when people do not have access to micronutrient-rich foods such as fruit, vegetables, animal products and fortified foods, usually because they are too expensive to buy or are locally unavailable. Micronutrient deficiencies increase the general risk of infectious illness and of dying from diarrhoea, measles, malaria and pneumonia. These conditions are among the 10 leading causes of disease in the world today.

Based on the recommendations, WHO, WFP and UNICEF issued a Joint Statement on preventing and controlling micronutrient deficiencies in populations affected by an emergency in March 2006. Guidelines in support of the implementation of the joint statement are being developed. UNICEF Supply Division is currently updating existing product specifications and identifying potential products to support country requirements during emergencies. This report talks about the goals and implementation procedures of doing away with the deficiency of Iodine, Iron and Vitamin A.

To meet the goal of eliminating iodine deficiency by 2005, UNICEF is re-advocating with governments to commit them to eliminating iodine deficiency and to encourage the involvement of salt producers as a way to sustain the process. UNICEF is also working actively with civil society and schools to create and increase the demand for iodized salt.

UNICEF uses educational campaigns to clarify the important role of iron in the diet. When iron-rich foods – liver, red meats, eggs, fish, whole-grain bread, legumes – are not widely available or affordable, fortifying staples such as flour is an alternative for reaching a large portion of the population.

In countries where mortality among young children is high, ensuring that children between six months and 59 months receive enough vitamin A may be the single most cost-effective child survival intervention. Another cost-effective option is fortifying staple foods that most of the population eats and that is produced in a way that will accommodate fortification, such as oils or flour. Many countries in Central America, such as Guatemala and Honduras, have had great success with sugar fortification. Finally, wherever possible, including items such as meat, eggs, fruit, red palm-oil, green leafy vegetables and carrots in the diet will ensure adequate vitamin A consumption.

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