Why iodine nutrition?
Why iodine nutrition?Iodine is a dietary element that is essential for the development and growth of the human body, especially the brain. Iodine deficiency has devastating and irreversible effects on brain development during the first trimester of pregnancy resulting in a reduced IQ of up to 13.5 points. This affects learning potential, school performance, limits opportunities and decreases productivity in later life. A simple intervention, providing iodine through salt for human (including table salt and salt used for industrial food production) and animal consumption is the easiest, most effective and least expensive way for complete prevention.
What are the issues?
One of the main aims of the Universal SaIt Iodisation programme is to obtain national commitments from governments to address iodine nutrition by mandating iodisation of all edible salt, including table and food grade salt, as well as animal salt.
Currently, all but two countries, Russia and Ukraine, have national mandatory laws, legislations, decrees or programmes which have been formally adopted by the leaders of these nations. Out of 20 countries with mandatory laws, 15 have adopted these very recently in the last five years. Uzbekistan was the latest country to adopt the legislation in 2007. This is the backbone of the Iodine Deficiency Disorders elimination effort. Based on this, policies have been developed and inserted in a variety of ways such as food laws and nutrition policies.
The main challenge for governments, once adopted, is to implement and enforce mandatory legislation and ban all non-iodised salt from the market. Quite a few countries have most of their salt iodised, but often with insufficient iodine. Better quality assurance at production can alleviate this problem.
Sustainability is another area of concern. Once the goal is achieved and external donor support is reduced, there is a risk of sliding back. An effective national coordination mechanism with regular monitoring and public reporting, coupled with corrective actions is a mechanism that can prevent this. In 2008 further progress has been made in Armenia, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan where governments have taken full responsibility of continued oversight of the achievements.
Facts & figures
The international arbitrarily determined level of adequately iodised salt is 15 iodine parts per million (ppm). Below are some on the latest available information from national surveys in 2008 and from the report Universal Salt Iodisation in CEE CIS during 2000 – 2009:
What is UNICEF`s role?
UNICEF has strongly advocated for adoption of legislative frameworks and national laws to ensure a long-term and sustainable national mechanism. Adopting the goal to reach Universal Salt Iodisation became regional priority in 2001. UNICEF and partners are committed to eliminate iodine deficiency through the most cost-effective solution, universal salt iodisation, i.e. iodisation of all salt for human and animal consumption.
UNICEF aims to ensure Iodine Deficiency Disorder elimination in all countries, while a more focused approach is pursued in Russia and Ukraine through the new Gates-funded partnership with Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition. Strong private-public-civic partnerships are the major reasons for exemplary progress. Awareness raising activities at national and international levels (through media, events, goodwill ambassadors and face-to-face meetings) to engage government and industry partners remains important.
For more information see www.unicef.org/ceecis or please contact: