By Lance M. Incitti Sponsored Youth Committee Chairman, Worldwide Service Project
In May 1997, seven Kiwanians from the United States, Netherlands, Austria, and Germany visited Pakistan on a field trip with UNICEF workers to find out the extent of iodine deficiency disorders (IDD). What we saw brought tears to our eyes. At that time, 80 percent of the people in the Northwest Frontier Province were suffering from IDD, and household usage of iodized salt in the Swat District of the province was at a low of 2 percent and a high of 23 percent. The government was not interested in working with UNICEF or local health officials in the field. While in Pakistan, we met a doctor, Mohammad Rafiq, who was dedicated to the IDD cause. I recently met with Dr. Rafiq and learned there's been a remarkable turnaround in household iodized salt usage in the Swat district. In fact, it's risen to 88 percent. The model for the Swat District's success was built upon using existing resources, including scout leaders, teachers, religious leaders, and local police. These individuals were educated in the use and monitoring of iodized salt. Schoolchildren were asked to take salt into their classrooms each month where it would be tested for iodine. Kiwanis has contributed $600,000 so far to support IDD-elimination programs in Pakistan, and Dr. Rafiq says that the Kiwanians' visit to Pakistan was very significant. The progress in Pakistan is proof that Kiwanians can—and do—make a difference.