2 November 2013: UNICEF Calls for Universal Salt Iodization in Zanzibar
Pemba, Zanzibar, 2 November 2013 – During a ceremony in Pemba, Zanzibar, today, Zanzibar’s Minister of Health, Hon. Dr. Juma Duni Hajj, and the UNICEF Representative in Tanzania, Dr. Jama Gulaid, donated essential supplies (potassium iodate and hand-pumps) to small scale salt farmers with the aim to boost the government efforts to combat iodine deficiency, particularly in small children and pregnant women.
In Zanzibar only one in two families (49 per cent) has access to adequately iodized salt. In Pemba, use of iodized salt is much lower. Only one in four families (24 per cent) has access to adequately iodized salt. There is an urgent need to improve use of iodized salt in Zanzibar, especially Pemba.
“According to official data, consumption of sufficiently iodized salt is low in Zanzibar The consequences of this practice is not good – poor development of the brain of infant born to mothers using iodized salt and, in turn, poor performance in school. This is bad news”, said Jama Gulaid at the event. “But there is good news that you should hear and tell everyone, starting with your family members. Iodine deficiency is easily prevented if every family member uses salt that has been properly treated. To ensure compliance with the legislation on salt production, we need inspectors to regularly check the quality of salt in the market and stop the sale of non-iodized salt”.
“Goitre is only the tip of the iceberg, the consequences of insufficient iodized salt consumption will impact generations of children in terms of their intellectual development and economic performance”, said Hon. Dr. Juma Duni Hajj.
Pemba island produces approximately 2,000 tons of salt every year, mostly aimed for local consumption. In 2001 UNICEF supported a study in Zanzibar which indicated that iodine deficiency was a problem. A year later, UNICEF started supporting the Ministry of Health to train salt producers on salt iodisation. In 2011, the Government introduced the Food Security and Nutrition Act, a legislation that promotes use of iodized salt.
UNICEF’s support focuses on: strengthening the technical and managerial capacity of the salt plants, supporting salt farmers with training and distribution of potassium iodate, providing farmers with hand pumps for decentralised iodization in the farm, training of traders and food inspectors and sensitizing local authorities and farmers on the importance of iodizing salt.
Recently all salt producers in Pemba received training on quality assurance for iodized salt. All the Health Inspectors from the Ministry of Health and Zanzibar Food Drugs and Cosmetics Board received training on quality control. But treatment of salt reserves and enforcement of legislation are lagging behind.
“Zanzibar can eliminate deficiency of iodine deficiency but this task needs vigilance and a strong partnership among stakeholders - the government, salt producers, retailers, inspectors, public health officials and communities”, added Jama Gulaid.
Iodine is an essential mineral, particularly for pregnant women and young children. It is needed for healthy brain development of the foetus and young children.
Iodine deficiency is a major cause of preventable brain damage and learning disability. It has an invisible impact on brain development, reducing intellectual capacity at school and in working life, even amongst those with mild or moderate deficiency. Studies have shown that the intelligence quotient (IQ) of children in communities with iodine deficiency is 10-15 points lower than their peers with good iodine status.
The event was part of a two-day visit to Pemba by UNICEF Tanzania’s Representative and Zanzibar’s Minister of Health, to better understand progress made and emerging challenges in the areas of new-born and infant health and nutrition; micronutrients and salt fortification with iodine; immunization coverage; and water, sanitation and hygiene in communities and in schools.
For further information, including interviews or a detailed list of activities in Tanzania, please contact:
Sheila Ally, UNICEF Tanzania, Phone: +255 22 219 6690, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sandra Bisin, UNICEF Tanzania, Mobile: +255 787 600079, email@example.com