Gates Foundation enters IDD partnership

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has added $15 million to the fight against iodine deficiency disorders (IDD), fueling the Kiwanis fmily's fervor to continue its worldwide campaign against the leading preventable cause of mental retardation. "This is great and welcome news," says Kiwanis International President Bo Shafer. "Millions of children worldwide will live better, smarter, healthier lives because of this gift. But it does not mean that our Kiwanis-family work is finished. "

The Gates Foundation's gift, in part, is the delivery on a promise made by the United States Fund for UNICEF to find corporate and foundation assistance for Kiwanis' Worldwide Service Project. At the 85th Annual Kiwanis International Convention in Miami Beach, Florida, US Fund for UNICEF President Charles Lyons announced that he and his staff would help find $10 million in contributions for the Kiwanis-family campaign. That promise helped boost the status of Worldwide Service Project to its current total of $66.8 million in contributions and pledges.

The Gates Foundation approved the grant to address three distinct approaches or interventions: achieving universal salt iodization, improving national and regional monitoring of progress to sustain achievements, and establishing a global monitoring database to improve regional and global surveillance, which will protect Kiwanis and UNICEF's investments.

"Iodine deficiency has an enormous impact on communities and nations," says Gordon Perkin, MD, director of the Gates Foundation's Global Health Program. "By joining this historic partnership, we believe we can help children around the globe get the nutrition they need so they can reach their full potential."

"This gift confirms that, through our Worldwide Service Project, we are winning the fight against IDD," says Kiwanis International President Bo Shafer. "It virtually guarantees that our success will endure forever. Let's use the momentum of the Gates Foundation's gift to push forward in our campaign: to initiate and complete personal pledges, continue fund-raising efforts, and fulfill our commitment to the world's children. "

Globally, more than 70 percent of households have access to iodized salt, compared to just 20 percent in 1990. In 28 developing countries, 90 percent of the population use adequately iodized salt. According to UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO), incredible progress has been made in the past 10 years, now protecting 85 million more newborns every year from a significant loss in learning ability and other maladies that result from IDD. In more than 30 developing nations, however, less than half of the population uses iodized salt. In another 36 countries, only 50 to 89 percent of the people have access to iodized salt. Among nations, health organizations, salt producers, and Kiwanis, the desire to virtually eliminate IDD has never been higher.

In September 2001, the United Nations General Assembly will review the progress toward goals set by the 1990 World Summit for Children. The success of the fight against IDD is expected to be the highlight of that session, and a gala celebration is planned afterwards to acknowledge the Kiwanis family's role in one of history's greatest health achievements.

Kiwanis International's Worldwide Service Project chairman, David Miller, says the Gates Foundation announcement should motivate clubs, divisions, and districts to ensure their representation at the US Fund celebration. Four invitations will be sent to each of the top 25 clubs and divisions in total contributions and per-capita contributions, as determined on May 31, 2001. Any district with more than $200-per-member participation also willreceive invitations. "It will be a proud moment for us to announce to the UN General Assembly that we have met our goal," David says. "Not that we came close, but that we met our goal for the children of the world."