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For a Few Pennies More

Life - For a Few Pennies More

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Kamidi lives on the slopes of Mount Merapi, one of Java's most active and dangerous volcanoes. He's three foot tall and has the tell-tale signs associated with cretinism: low hair line, bulging eyes, stunted growth -- all associated with iodine deficiency. Still more common are the goiters -- where the thyroid gland in the neck, starved of iodine, grows and grows in an effort to capture more iodine from the sufferer's blood.

20 years ago an Indonesian endocrinologist, injected large numbers of people in the surrounding area with iodine-infused oil. Kamidi was one of his patients. Within weeks he started feeling more energetic. Eventually he even married -- to another cretin, who'd also been treated with the iodine-infused oil. They had a normal child, Rame.

Now a chemistry major at university, Rame recalls, 'when I was a child, I used to dream of inventing some cure or treatment to make my father normal.' He's passionate about making sure other Indonesians don't suffer the same fate.

Across the world, there are two billion people at risk from iodine deficiency. Apart from the classic symptoms of goiters and cretinism, it also leads to still births and underweight babies, and -- less visible but even deadlier in the long run -- lowers the IQ of sufferers. World Bank figures estimate that up to 5% of global GDP is lost because of the lack of micronutrients like iodine deficiency.