Kiwanis spares Namibia's children from infection

While sparing Namibian children from the scourge of iodine deficiency disorders (IDD), Kiwanis helped stop an outbreak of a parasite infection.

This past May, the Namibia office of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) submitted a report about the use of more than $89,000 from a Kiwanis International grant for the virtual elimination of IDD. In addition to noting the progress being made to iodize salt, train health workers, and monitor the people's consumption of the healthful micronutrient, the report mentions a fortuitous byproduct of Kiwanis funding. "When urine specimens were collected (in the nation's northwest region) to check for iodine, a large number of students had blood in their urine," the report states. "This attracted the attention of the survey team, who checked the urine for the presence of parasites.

It was found that 80 percent of them were infected with Schistosoma haematobium." Early symptoms of this infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia, include rash, fever, chills, and coughs. Though rare, damage to the liver, intestines, lungs, and bladder is possible with repeated infections.

"The Ministry of Health and Social Services has now decided to take action to address the problem of Schistosomiasis and other intestinal parasites among the population," the UNICEF-Namibia report states. Meanwhile, the Kiwanis funds have been used to train 150 health workers to deal with IDD. Laboratory supplies were purchased to conduct IDD surveys, such as the one in the northwestern territory. Food and nutritional guidelines have been written. Teachers and students, in cooperation with health inspectors, use field test kits to monitor iodine content in household salt. In addition, a video has been produced and is being broadcast nationwide to educate viewers on the healthful benefits of iodized salt. And discussions with government leaders have been initiated to establish a system of quality control and to install salt-testing units at the Botswana and South African borders.

According to a 1996 survey, the household consumption of iodized salt was found to be 43.8 percent in rural areas and 85.4 percent in urban areas. Because of Kiwanis' contribution—now totaling more than $92,000—all salt manufactured in Namibia for human consumption is iodized, the report states.