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Political stability lies with intelligent children: 'Bond'.

JAKARTA, April 9 Kyodo

Roger Moore, one of filmdom's most popular portrayers of British secret agent ''007,'' is in Indonesia, but not to film a new James Bond movie.

This time, he is ''spying'' on Indonesia as an international ambassador for UNICEF to whether its children are healthy enough to help make the political condition in the country more stable.

Moore, who has been in Indonesia since Sunday, said Monday a country's political stability lies with intelligent children and to raise such children, attention must be paid to nutrition for the young.

''An intelligent population makes the economy of a country grow and when the economy grows, there is a stability,'' Moore, also well-known for his television portrayal of ''The Saint,'' told a press conference on the use of iodized salt.

The actor, who will be in Jakarta until Tuesday, noted, however, that some of the rights the children should have, including education and health, have been ignored.

''Children have the right to be heard, but many times, their voices are too weak to be heard,'' he said, adding that is why he has used his personal popularity to help children and pregnant women get healthy diets.

''You cannot really educate unhealthy children, (but) to be healthy, they must be immunized, get nutritious food...,'' he said.

Moore expressed concern that only a few initiatives are seen to increase the awareness of the importance of iodized salt, urging Indonesian government officials and consumers to renew their commitment to using only iodized salt for the sake of the children and for their own future.

''By using iodized salt, we can raise the IQ of the child by 10% to costs nothing and it has many rewards,'' he said.

''Indonesia, where an estimated 40 million people are still using noniodized salt, is UNICEF's next target,'' he added.

One problem UNICEF is now facing in Indonesia, he added, is newly introduced laws on decentralization and regional autonomy that reduce the power of the central government and gives more to the regions.

He did not elaborate but likely referred to the lack of human resources development in many regions in the country.

''Because of the decentralization and regional autonomy, responsibilities are going down to 'bupati' (regional chiefs),'' Moore said.

However, he believes that with the right commitment and effort from the Indonesian government, the country can achieve universal salt iodization.

Moore is expected to address more than 100 regional chiefs from across the country during a meeting Tuesday when the chiefs will learn more about the importance of their role in supporting the current law that prohibits the sale of noniodized salt for human consumption.

''UNICEF has seen evidence from the field that the biggest single factor in achieving compliance with the laws on sale of iodized salt is the commitment of the district chief,'' UNICEF Representative for Indonesia Rolf Carriere said.

Carriere said Indonesia is currently at the crossroads in setting its public health priorities.

''The economic situation has pressured families into compromising their children's long-term mental and physical development for short-term financial reasons by buying noniodized salt,'' Carriere added.

Iodine deficiency is the most common preventable causes of mental retardation among the children and miscarriage among pregnant women. The Ministry of Health estimates that Indonesia ''loses'' 140 million IQ points annually as a result of iodine deficiency.

Lack of iodine also causes goiter, an enlargement of the thyroid gland. However, for every case of goiter in Indonesia, there are 10 to 20 ''invisible'' cases of mental retardation due to lack of iodine, it suggested.
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Publication:Asian Economic News
Date:Apr 16, 2001
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