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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 in April by the Global Network for Sustained Elimination of Iodine Deficiency at the occasion of an international forum on Micronutrient Deficiency held in Turkey.  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 98per cent of the households having access to adequately iodized salt and 100per cent 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 67per cent 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’s support, launched the Universal Salt Iodization programme in Nigeria.

At the time the programme started in 1993, only 40per cent 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 6per cent. 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 ten 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.’

UNICEF Nigeria is grateful to USAID and Kiwanis International who have given financial support to its Salt Iodization programme in Nigeria.

UNICEF is on the ground in 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

For more information, contact:
Christine Jaulmes, UNICEF Nigeria Office, Tel: 08034020879; E-mail: cjaulmes@unicef.org
Geoffrey Njoku, UNICEF Nigeria Office, Tel: Tel: 0803 52 50 288; E-mail: gnjoku@unicef.org




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