|Child with goiter due IDD|
About 77% of households in the country do not consume iodized salt hence are at risks of having Iodine Deficiency Disorders (IDDs) like goiter and mental retardation. Women in this household are at risk of miscarriages and still birth.
Mathew Baldeh of UNICEF, on Monday during a two-seminar for media practitioners on IDDs, said only 23% of households in The Gambia consume iodized salt. “This is serious,” he remarked, noting it has serious health and social consequences which are detrimental to the country’s development particularly to the attainment of some of the MDGs.
IDD is a real threat to child survival and development and children in The Gambia are amongst the most threatened. The risk of physical deformity, blindness, infections such as severe anemia and measles are greater when children do not have enough iodine in their bodies. IDDs can be prevented by consuming iodised salt.
Dr John Egbuta, regional director for West and Central Africa at the International Council for the Control of Iodine Deficiency Disorders (ICCIDD), said The Gambia is at risk of iodine deficiency disorders and to remedy the situation “we need to make sure any salt consume in the country to be iodized.”
He said The Gambia’s key focused areas for salt iodization programme should be to improved quality of iodised salt, to have a quality control system, to improved consumer preference and acceptance of iodine salt, and to increase public awareness of important of iodized salt.
Malang Fofana, programme manager of the Gambia National Nutrition Agency, said iodine is a micronutrient require by the body in small amount but extremely important for the development of the brain particularly in children and in pregnant women.
He said as it is now, The Gambia might not likely meet the target of Universal Salt Iodization (USI) programme, which is every country to have more than 90% of its population to be consuming iodized salt by 2015. “Unfortunately the Gambia is far from achieving that,” he said.
However, Dr Egbuta earlier on said with enough monitoring and evaluation within the next two years, The Gambia can attain the USI target.
In the Gambia, there is already legislation in place since 2006 that prohibits the trading and consumption of non-iodised salt but it is not enforce though Mr Fofana said the National Nutrition Agency has recently trained law enforcement officers to start enforcing the legislation.
Iodine deficiency retards socio-economic development, since the affected individuals are less productive and more handicapped individuals had to be taken care of. IDD is the commonest cause of preventable impairment of intellectual and mental development and function.
In Africa, about 181 million people are at risk of IDD of which 6 million suffer intellectual and mental handicap. IDD is thought to contribute substantially to the continued under development of Africa and other third world countries.
Globally, more than 1.5 billion people are at risk of lacking iodine and WHO estimates that more than 655 million people have IDDs, 43 million of which have brain disorder and mental retardation caused by iodine deficiency.