In the Southeast Asian nation of Laos, children bring salt from their homes to school, where they use simple kits to test its iodine content. UNICEF project officer Intong Keomoungkhoune noted, “children enjoy testing the salt and understand the reason for this very quickly…”
The reason is the need to prevent iodine deficiency disorder, which damages the health of hundreds of millions of people around the world. Iodine deficiency is particularly harmful to infants and young children, who can suffer irreversible damage to their cognitive development. But thanks to concerted worldwide effort to fortify household salt with iodine, the prevalence of iodine deficiency has been cut in half, from 30% to less than 15%.
Some of the world’s poorest countries – including such populous nations as Bangladesh and Nigeria – have succeeded in iodizing 70% or more of their salt, proving that it can be done with modest resources. By 2002, 67% of all households in sub-Sahara Africa, 80% of those in East Asia, and 91`% of those in Latin America were consuming iodized salt.
Fortifying commonly used foods is a practical and cost-effective way to make immediate improvements in people’s health. By iodizing and fortifying flour and cereals with iron, health and nutrition experts are giving low-income people around the world access to essential vitamins and minerals. The benefits – in lives saved, health restored, increased productivity at school and work – are immense.
Bread for the World’s 2006 Offering of Letters, One Spirit, One Will, Zero Poverty, calls on Congress to allocate additional resources for poverty-focused development assistance, which pays for effective basic health initiatives such as food fortification. The U.S. has promised to double poverty-focused development assistance to the developing world by 2010. To get our nation on track to fulfill this commitment, Congress must make available an additional $5 billion in fiscal year 2007.
The increase in the availability of fortified foods demonstrates that our efforts to win additional poverty-focused development assistance are worthwhile. Our government has enormous power to give low-income families around the world an opportunity to build a better future. Using our gift of citizenship to urge our elected representatives to do this is effective. In fact, each dollar that Bread for the World spends on advocacy returns up to $150 in increased resources for hungry and poor people. And as with iodized salt to fight iodine deficiency – the world’s leading cause of preventable mental retardation – every dollar can make a difference in a life.
“How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s good and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help? Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.”
1 John 3:17-18.
The Lenten season offered us a time to focus on Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and our own journeys toward living God’s love. Now in the time of Easter, Christ is risen. The resurrected Christ is powerfully present in our world today.
John’s letter was written to deepen the spiritual and social awareness of the Christian community. Throughout the Epistle, the references to the cross remind us that God’s greatest proclamation of abiding love was not just in word or speech but through action – through Jesus’ sacrifice. Likewise, when God’s love abides in us we love one another, not just in words, but in action.
How do we imitate God’s love in action? Jesus gave us many examples of how to love in this way. Countless times Jesus actually fed, healed, and restored people. He acted in love because he cared deeply about the physical health and well being of those around him.
…when God’s love abides in us we love one another, not just in words, but in action.
Our world may seem entirely different from the world of Jesus’ time or 1 John. Yet, today, our brothers and sisters in Africa and other parts of the world suffer from the same needs for food, shelter, and water that afflicted John’s “brothers and sisters in need.”
We live in a time when we have an unprecedented opportunity to make a concrete difference in the lives of poor people. God has made it possible in our time to end hunger and extreme poverty. In 2000, 189 countries – including the U.S. – made a promise to do just that around the world with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).