US Helps Keep Laos Healthy by Fighting Iodine Deficiency Disorder

US Ambassador Daneil Clune inspects salt during a tour at the Khoksa Ath Salt Factory.
US Ambassador Daneil Clune inspects salt during a tour at the Khoksa Ath Salt Factory.

Daniel A. Clune, U.S. Ambassador to the Lao PDR, Dr. Som Ock Kingsada, Vice-Minister of Health, and Ms. Hongwei Gao, the UNICEF  Representative to the Lao PDR toured the Khoksa Ath Salt Factory in Vientiane on May 12 to mark the announcement of an additional $165,000 in funding from the U.S. Government to UNICEF to further reduce iodine deficiency disorder in Laos.  The group observed the salt iodization process and learned about the testing of iodine levels in salt.

Iodine deficiency disorder has long been recognized as a significant public health challenge in the Lao PDR.  Iodine deficiency can lead to mental retardation and brain damage in infant and young children. It is the single most important preventable cause of brain damage.  Among pregnant women, deficiency of iodine can increase the risk for miscarriages, still births and infant mortality.

This disorder can be easily prevented by adding iodine to table salt.  In the early 1990’s, 95 percent of children in Laos were identified as iodine deficient, but with the support provided by UNICEF and the U.S. Government for the salt iodization program, that number has been cut in half.  “We appreciate the efforts of the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, and the Lao Salt Producer Group in implementing this critical public health intervention,” said Ambassador Clune.

The United States is committed to working with the Government of Laos to improve the health of Lao mothers and children.  In October 2014, the United States provided $675,000 to UNICEF to provide nutritional supplements and deworming tablets for pregnant and lactating women and for children under five, particularly from remote areas, adding to the nearly USD $60 million the United States has given in support of nutritional initiatives in Laos over the past decade.  

Lao Version (PDF 43KB)