In developing countries across the globe, many people suffer from micronutrient deficiencies, stemming from improper nourishment and leading to a number of health problems. Vitamin A and iodine deficiencies have serious consequences for mothers and children, making it imperative that they have access to supplements for these nutrients if they are not getting them naturally through their diet.
A lack of iodine can lead to iodine deficiency disorders (IDDs), which are the most damaging during pregnancy and early childhood. IDDs can lead to cretinism, stillbirth and miscarriage. Iodine deficiency greatly impacts a child’s learning ability and is a major cause of preventable mental retardation.
Iodine is generally obtained through food, and iodine deficiency generally occurs in areas where flooding or glaciation have depleted the iodine in the soil, impacting all plants grown in the region. Salt iodization is the primary method for reducing iodine deficiency. Individuals should not increase salt consumption, but rather exclusively use iodized salt.
Based on UNICEF estimates, less than 20 percent of households in developing countries were using iodized salt in 1990. By 2000, however, this had increased to approximately 70 percent, and UNICEF reports that 86 percent of the world’s population currently has access to iodized salt, a major success in the reduction of micronutrient deficiencies.