fistful of promises

Up to today there’s no yet a wide bibliography about Republic of Tuva in English. The main information available are mostly related to “Tuva Or Bust by Ralph Leighton (1991), “In Siberia” by Colin Thubron (1999) and few other readings on Khoomei throat singing.

Fistful of Promises offers an image of the Republic of Tuva from an unusual perspective, that of humanitarian aid, where music, nature and nomadic culture are the backdrop.


The Book

J.W. Green wrote a biographical book about his experience in Siberia in his book Fistful of  Promises , Trying to Help Tuva’s Children in 2011.

I would recommend this book to anyone who would like have more information about Tuva.  Dr. Green offers a detailed travel-biography about what could be the things one could expect while traveling in Siberia.

I slightly disagree with a few Dr.Green comments about Tuvan nomadic mindsets and way of dealing with things, which I instead consider as one characteristic element leading Tuva to be one of the most exclusive cultural poles of central Asia.

J.W. Green in the early 1990s had the chance to make a travel trough Central Asia with  J.Brenner (New Jersey) and  Dr. Robert DeLong (Duke University) an expert neurologist who went in visit of Xinjiang Province (China) to prove that by irrigating with iodine crops could have an impact on people and domestic animals.

As for Xinjinag, Inner-Mongolia, Mongolia and Southern Siberia which are all areas suffering of iodine deficiency (IDD) Dr. Green efforts little by little shifted on Republic of Tuva where  he went repeatedly for his studies and to finance various works.

With the help of his partners he managed to raise money to purchase machinery to add iodine to salt as it is proven to be one of the most effective ways for humans to assimilate iodine since salt is at the base human daily diet.

Eventually their efforts over the years helped them raising more than $100,000, which were donated to the Tuvan cause in order to provide them the machinery necessary to iodize salt. They also funded the reconstruction of an orphanage for children with cognitive problems related to iodine deficiency and supported local farmers in providing iodine to their herds which is also proved to raise animals dairy and wool production.

In Kyzyl he met Dr. Rimma Chubarova (head of endocrinologist for Republic of Tuva),  (a Tuvan pediatrician and endocrinologist) and Dr. Irena Osokina (physician from Krasnoyarsk). Rimma and Nadedja studies showed that almost all population in Tuva suffers of iodine deficiency, especially in the western regions.

The book offers many interesting anecdotes about the way of thinking in Tuva, about the  small struggles to cooperate with local bureaucracy and the rural life in Tuva.

In one of the stories narrated by J.Green is about a salty lake which his partners determined suitable for the extraction of salt for food use Sea and lake salt are particularly suitable for iodination because its crystals are already small and therefore the cost of refining is lower. The person responsible for the lake, J.W. Green wanted to purchase salt from, recently lost his wife and daughter apparently due to an “evil spell”, therefore no one wanted to work anymore in the salt extraction from the lake. J.Green, trying convince people to get back to work, almost hired a shaman to “remove the spell” if local government wouldn’t have provided the salt from other sources.

Unfortunately the book is ending with a sad comment by the author who spent more then 10 years to support Tuva to fight IDD and didn’t achieve the wanted results.  His work was left unaccomplished due to lack of commitment of local Tuvan authorities in preserving the machinery which Dr. Green and his associates installed in Tuva for salt iodination.


How does iodine works, iodination and iodine deficiency.

UNICEF states that still in 2013, more than 35 million newborns in the world were unprotected from the lifelong consequences of brain damage associated with iodine deficiency.

Iodine is a micro-nutrient responsible for the well functioning of thyroid gland, where there is a greater concentration of iodine. Here the hormone thyroxin is produced to help the individual developing of an healthy neurological and muscular structure. Risultati immagini per iodine

A deficiency in the production of thyroxin hormone at embryo stage is often related with low IQ, dwarfism, birth defects, motor deficiency especially critical at the second trimester of pregnancy. In adults a low production of thyroxin has often been related to goiter.

Iodine is an element rich in the seas but hard to find in mountain areas or far from sea. Nowadays, world wide there are still millions of people developing health issues related to iodine deficiency. It is not related to the economic power of a country but to its capabilities of government to communicate with his population about the importance of the assumption of iodine and to set effective policies.

Screen Shot 2017-11-18 at 15.35.50

Form A Practical Guide to The Correction of Iodine Deficiency, pg.10, by John T. Dunn, Frits Van Der Haar, 1990. Very interesting source, also presenting case studies in different countries.

In 1990, the international community adopted the goal of iodine deficiency elimination at the United Nations World Summit for Children and the main conductor chose for this goal was iodated-salt. Salt in fact is a wide spread element around the globe used in all the cultures to preserve and flavor dishes.
Screen Shot 2017-11-18 at 15.53.56.png

Despite a worldwide application of successful iodine supplementation programs over the last four decades, iodine deficiency remains a major public heath problem in Europe. In 2004, it was estimated that of the 2 billion people around the world at risk of iodine deficiency, 20 percent live in Europe, Eastern and Western Europe being both affected.(Iodine deficiency in Europe : a continuing public health problem,Published jointly with Unicef, by Andersson, Maria. II. World Health Organization. III. UNICEF, pp.vii & 9) In this essay also information about Iodine deficiency in Europe.

Risultati immagini per iodine

Between the main challenges to widespread iodine salt are ensuring adequate quality control, ensure the support of political leaders, and to educate people to the correct use of iodine salt.

An ineffective management of this problem has definitely an economical impact because of the costs for society due health conditions. The benefits extend to life-stocks too, resulting in higher birthrates, increase of weight and meat, strength, and higher wool production. All factors very important taking into account that iodine deficiency is usually higher in mountain areas and steppes where animals give great contribution to the economic and nutritional support of the populations.

Further Links:
Map iodine Deficiency

Map of Iodine Deficiency, from Iodine Status Worldwide: WHO Global Database on Iodine De ciency / editors: Bruno de Benoist, by UNICEF, 2004

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