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School pupils sustain Universal Salt Iodization (USI) status in Nigeria

Pupils take part in a salt iodization orientation exercise.
© UNICEF Nigeria/2007/Okonde
Pupils at Ekwulobia Central Community School take part in a salt iodization orientation exercise.

Ike ran excitedly into his father’s large compound in Ekwulobia where the domestic animals were playing into the family’s living room. He was shouting for his mother and it was obvious that something important had happened. His voice rang out, “Mummy where are you? I have good news for you". He was clutching a piece of paper that contained a white coloured substance in his hand.

Adaeze, his mother, walked into their living room just as Ike was laying the contents of his hand down on the table and she knew that his news had to do with something that had happened at school. Earlier that morning before he left for school, her 9-year-old son, who was an above average primary three pupil at the Central Community School had taken a large pinch of their cooking salt along with him.

As part of its support for salt iodization initiatives and interventions in the country, UNICEF Nigeria adopted the ‘child-to-child within the school and community’ strategy, recognising it as an effective channel of disseminating useful information to families, peers and communities.

At Ike’s persistence, Adaeze had thrown away the salt that the family used to cook with and purchased another brand of salt from the corner shop. She had noted that the new salt had a different kind of logo.

Ike had taken time to explain to her that the cooking salt that she purchased from the local market over two months ago was bad and did not contain an essential ingredient called iodine. He said a lack of iodine would make him dull and could cause her neck to become swollen with a goitre in the future. The prospect frightened her. Ike had insisted that unless she bought salt fortified with iodine, the academic performance of he and his younger siblings in school would be compromised.

He explained that salt that had iodine in it had a special logo on the package that helped people to know it was alright to buy that particular brand of salt.

In addition to providing funding for salt iodization projects, UNICEF’s nutrition programme also supports the orientation of school children in salt testing and the advantages of consuming iodized salt.

Ike, still breathless from running, quickly explained to his mother that his teacher had asked all the pupils to come to school with a pinch of salt wrapped in a clean dry piece of paper; and had then carried out an experiment in class that morning. Ike noticed that were strangers at his school that day - two women and a man- who were later introduced as having come from the State Primary Education Board and the Ministry of Health, Awka, the State capital.

Ike’s headmaster proceeded to test the salt the pupils had brought from their homes by putting a drop of a fluid onto the salt. Immediately, the spot changed to a blue black colour and this Ike was told indicated his was a good and healthy salt which contained iodine.

This was in complete contrast to the testing exercise conducted by his class teacher about two months ago which showed a negative iodine content in the salt Ike had brought from home.

Adaeze was pleased with the outcome of this latest exercise and her son’s enthusiasm. Ike too was happy that the iodized salt testing turned out positive. He didn’t have to worry about being deficient and he would work hard and go on to become a medical doctor just as he dreamed.

iodized salt being sold in a market in Nigeria
© UNICEF Nigeria
Nigeria has attained the virtual elimination of iodine deficiency as a significant health problem and has eminently achieved Universal Salt Iodization Compliance.

About the Universal Salt Iodization programme in Nigeria.

In the 80's, Iodine Deficiency was a significant public health concern in Nigeria with a total goiter rate as high as 67%. 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. The programme has achieved tremendous success. The goiter rate has now reduced to 6% and 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.

UNICEF’s focus on eliminating iodine deficiency disorders has enabled Nigeria become the first African country to achieve universal salt iodization. This recognition was given by the Global Network for Sustained Elimination of Iodine Deficiency at an international forum on Micronutrient Deficiency held in Turkey in April 2007.



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