Health and nutrition


Immunisation +

Integrated management of childhood illness




© UNICEF photo by G Pirozzi
A health worker giving advice to a woman on healthy food types.

Micronutrients deficiency control programme

In May 2004, UNICEF in partnership with USAID and the Micronutrient Initiative (MI) supported a seminar for Integrated Management of Childhood Illness (IMCI) practitioners, nutritionists and Extended Programme of Immunisation (EPI) personnel on appropriate record keeping of vitamin A supplementation. USAID is continuing to provide technical guidance to each province to ensure accurate and reliable documentation of coverage. However, during the recent national measles and polio campaign the Government of South Africa made a decision to exclude vitamin A supplementation as a component due to possible toxicity.

Iodine deficiency disease elimination

The primary concern about iodine deficiency is the damage to the mental development of children, severe iodine deficiency can cause the death of a child. This is the result of an inadequate intake of iodised salt, in their diet. Evidence of improved outcomes from the iodisation of table salt was seen in primary school children in four communities of the Western and Eastern Cape provinces. Their iodine status improved dramatically within one year after the introduction of compulsory iodization in 2001.

UNICEF supported the national Iodene Deficiency Disease (IDD) Network for South Africa through the funding of Kiwanis International and USAID. This year the Network convened a planning meeting to re-prioritise salt iodation which was attended by public health practitioners as well as salt packers and producers throughout the country. One of the main achievements was agreement by the salt industry to have permanent representation on the Network. In addition, consensus was obtained to change the level of salt iodation from the current 40-60 per person per month to 35-65 per person per month as well as to make the regulations stricter in relation to importers and re-packers of salt. Through UNICEF, the Medical Research Council has been contracted to conduct an IDD survey which will update the situation amongst women of child bearing age and school aged children. Data from this survey will be available late 2005.  UNICEF will continue to provide technical support to those producers who are still not iodating their salt and increase advocacy to the agricultural sector to comply with the regulations on food grade salt.

Food fortification

UNICEF supported the government in implementation of food fortification regulations during 2004. This translates into regulation by government on compulsory fortification of maize flour and wheat flour with 2 minerals and 6 vitamins which have been identified to be most deficient in the South African diet. This is about 25 % of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for 10 year olds and up. This process has been a key milestone in addressing nutritional needs of all South Africans.

Read the official statement by Ms. Misrak Elias, Country Representative, UNICEF South Africa, at the launch of the Food Fortification Regulations by the Department of Health in Johannesburg, October 2004.





South Africa is close to eliminating iodine deficiency disorders

Iodine deficiency disorder occurs when there is a lack of the mineral iodine in the human body. A lack of iodine hampers the development of the brain in children and leads to goitre in adults. Severe iodine deficiency disorders may include mental retardation, cretinism, abortion and hypothyroidism.
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