In the villages of Bima district in Indonesia, children laugh and talk excitedly amongst themselves.
Those who attend local schools actively participate in their classrooms, their attention evident as they volunteer answers to their teachers’ questions.
These children, their parents, family and community members are the reason that Layli Rahma Dianti wakes early each day and makes the long 30-kilometre trek to visit the salt fields where salt is iodized in three salt producing villages in Bima.
Layli makes no complaint about her hard work because she sees the impact that iodized salt is having in improving lives in her country.
Layli is the Micronutrient Initiative’s first and only female salt extender in Indonesia. Since April 2009, she has worked in a job still dominated by men in Indonesia and around the world.
Iodine deficiency is the leading preventable cause of brain damage with its most severe impacts occurring during fetal development and in the first few years of life.
For decades, iodine deficiency has been prevented in billions of people through salt iodization. Salt is the ideal vehicle to carry iodine because it is almost universally used, even in impoverished areas, and is inexpensive to buy.
In Indonesia, the Micronutrient Initiative uses salt extenders like Layli to help iodize the salt produced by small-scale salt processors who barter, trade or sell their salt more cheaply to poorer families.
Four mobile salt iodization machines and 50 handmixers are shared among these small processors. Layli manages and monitors the operational teams involved in onsite iodization and gets involved with the day-to-day running of each iodization site.
Layli works with the Bima regional government to provide the mobile salt iodization machine operators with potassium iodate. She regularly monitors the performance of the machines, dosing pumps and mixers and coordinates any equipment repair or technical assistance needed.
Layli and her government partners also conduct random spot checks of the iodine content in the salt to ensure it contains the right amount to be effective against iodine deficiency. She likewise participates in Iodine Deficiency Disorder Control (IDDC) activities and works with local officials on enforcing the ban on the sale of uniodized salt.
Layli’s hard work is clearly paying off; last year, approximately 18,000 MT of generic iodized salt were produced in Bima.
Through her efforts, this iodized salt has been provided to as many as 3.6 million people, including children who would not otherwise have been protected from iodine deficiency disorders and who now have a much better chance of reaching their full potential and leading healthy and productive lives.