UNICEF congratulates the Government of Nigeria for achieving Universal Salt Iodization
Nigeria is the first country in Africa to get international recognition for achieving Universal Salt Iodization.
Abuja, 11 May 2007 - UNICEF today congratulated the Government of Nigeria for achieving Universal Salt Iodization, a recognition given by the Global Network for Sustained Elimination of Iodine Deficiency at the occasion of an international forum on Micronutrient Deficiency held in Turkey in April 2007. Nigeria is the first African country to get such recognition after the national Programme for the Elimination of Iodine Deficiency has been assessed in 2005 by an external team of experts.
‘With 98 % of the households having access to adequately iodized salt and 100% iodized salt being produced at factory level, Nigeria has achieved a remarkable feat’, said Ayalew Abai, UNICEF Representative in Nigeria. ‘Salt Iodization is the most effective way to protect children from iodine deficiency – the world’s leading cause of preventable mental retardation and brain damage. So this recognition of Nigeria is a major milestone for the African Continent.”
In the 80's, Iodine Deficiency was a significant public health concern in Nigeria with a total goiter rate as high as 67% in 1988. In addition, Iodine Deficiency was the cause of mental impairment among children and subsequent poor learning ability. To combat this public health problem, the government, with UNICEF support, launched the Universal Salt Iodization programme in Nigeria.
At the time the programme started in 1993, only 40% of salt consumed in the country was iodized. However, in the last ten years, the programme has achieved tremendous success. The goiter rate has now reduced to 6%. Household access to iodized salt has consistently increased to reach universal level today. The programme is managed by the National Agency for Food and Drug Control (NAFDAC) in collaboration with the Standards Organization of Nigeria and the National Planning Commission. One of the success factors has been the commitment of the food industry and the high level of enforcement by NAFDAC.
In 2005, Nigeria was the first country in Africa to invite the Global Network for Sustained Elimination of Iodine Deficiency to carry out an external review. In November-December 2005, the international team assessed the salt iodization programme against 10 key requirements and concluded that 'Nigeria had attained the virtual elimination of iodine deficiency as a significant health problem and has eminently achieved Universal Salt Iodization Compliance.’
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