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Mozambique, 2 September 2014: Solution to iodine deficiency within reach, says UNICEF

Solution to iodine deficiency within reach
© UNICEF Mozambique/2010/Emidio Machiana

Maputo, 2 September 2014. Speaking in Maputo, UNICEF Representative Koen Vanormelingen stressed the need for Mozambique to address iodine deficiency in children, in order to prevent the grave effects associated with the syndrome.

“Iodine deficiency affects the intellectual development of millions of children in Mozambique today, but the solution is within reach and inexpensive,” said Dr. Vanormelingen, speaking at a National Salt Iodisation Conference in Maputo. “To move forward, we will need better regulation of salt production, improved commitment of manufacturers, and better marketing of iodised salt.”

Iodine deficiency is the leading cause of preventable brain damage in children. An estimated 3.5 million children between the ages of 6 and 12, and more than 1.5 million women suffer iodine deficiency in Mozambique today. Because of its large-scale effects on cognitive capacity, iodine deficiency is a serious threat to the overall development of the country.

“Every pregnant woman and every child needs iodised salt every day,” said Dr. Vanormelingen. ‘It is the joint responsibility of the state and the private sector to ensure all salt commercially available in the country is iodised.”

According to the Demographic and Health Survey 2011, the presence of iodised salt in households was lowest in Nampula and Zambezia, the most populous provinces in Mozambique, representing more than half the total population of the country. Iodised salt in households was also low in Manica and Cabo Delgado.

A law on universal salt iodisation, stipulating that all salt produced locally or imported for human and animal consumption must be iodised with potassium iodate, has been effective since 2000. Moreover, the multisectoral action plan for the reduction of chronic malnutrition includes a goal to increase the rate for household consumption of iodised salt to 80%.

Some of the challenges that remain include potassium iodide procurement mechanisms, which need to be simplified for salt manufacturers, quality control, as well as awareness and promotion of iodised salt to encourage demand.

“The current national programme will complement the programme of food fortification, and will contribute significantly to the improvement of health and development in Mozambique,” said Ms. Cerina Mussá Banú, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Industry and Commerce at the conference in Maputo today.

Salt iodisation is an evidence-based and a preferred strategy to ensure adequate intake of iodine. UNICEF has supported the National Salt Iodisation Programme since the nineties, with the Ministry of Industry and Commerce as the lead counterpart, and the Ministry of Health playing an important role in promoting consumption of iodised salt.

Besides UNICEF, the national meeting included participants from the private sector (salt manufacturers), central and provincial government, as well as technical partners GAIN and ICCIDD.

For more information, please contact:

Gabriel Pereira, UNICEF Mozambique, 
tel: (+258) 21 481 100



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