2001 ZAM: Report on Local Salt Iodation Activites in Kasempa and Kaputa Districts of Zambia
Author: Besa, E.; Hebulembe-Mugode, R.; National Food and Nutrition Commission
This is the assessment report of the local salt iodation program in Kasempa and Kaputa districts since the inception of the iodation program in 1998. The National Food and Nutrition Commission (NFNC) conducted the study with financial and logistical support from UNICEF. Local iodation of salt has been part of the national strategy to control Iodine Deficiency Disorders in Zambia with other efforts such as legislation on salt iodation, monitoring of salt iodation and installation of mini laboratories in some districts. Kasempa and Kaputa districts are two of the four main districts where local salt mining is done. UNICEF procured two local iodation machines in order to assist the local communities in iodating the local salt. This was intended to enable them to comply with the national legislation, which requires that all salt for human and animal consumption be iodated.
Purpose / Objective
The main aim of the study was to assess the progress made in the establishment of a local salt iodation system and the level of participation of the stakeholders in the program in the two areas. Assessing the adherence to procedures in the iodation of salt and the knowledge, attitude and practices of the producers, traders and consumers of local salt were also part of the objectives.
Respondents were randomly sampled: 107 producers, 62 traders and 108 consumers of local salt in the two districts. To collect the data, semi-structured questionnaires and checklists were used. Observations and review of iodation records were also done.
Key Findings and Conclusions
Since the inception of the program, a total of 66,512kg and 27,380kg salt has been iodated in Kaputa and Kasempa respectively. On average, the salt producers are able to make 10 bags of 50 kilograms per month during the production season (June to November). Most of the producers experience constraints in obtaining the raw materials and equipment meant to help in the iodation process from the point of mining to storage to sale of salt. From the results, it can be extrapolated that half of the salt producers iodated all their salt and a third did not iodate their salt at all. Comparison of the two districts showed that in Kasempa, the majority of the producers (82.5%) iodate all their salt while in Kaputa, only a third (34.3%) iodate all their salt. Reasons cited for iodating salt include: to follow government regulations and prevent IDDs. For those who do not iodate their salt, the reasons included that it was more expensive and hence resulted in the iodation of only that for home consumption. With regard to adherence to the iodation procedures, most producers have been following the procedures, although some problems have been experienced. The machine operators had been trained on how to add iodine to salt but the measurement tools were incorrect. The amount of salt iodated at a time was sometimes less than the 20kgs that is supposed to be iodated at a time. In the case of packaging, over half of their salt was packed in ordinary bags and not in polyethlyne plastic bags as recommended to retain iodine. This is mainly because they are the types of bags that are available in the area. Other types of bags used are jute sacks and traditional packs such as leaves. In Kasempa, the polythlene plastic bag was most common (50%) while in Kaputa, it was ordinary sacks (80.3%). Most producers (82.4%) indicated that they keep the salt on elevated platforms in order to allow air to circulate. Of the salt traders interviewed, only half (54.4%) sold traditional salt and the rest sold imported salt. Most producers (64.8%) and traders (70%) indicated that they were aware of the salt legislation. However, they indicated that there are limitations in complying with the regulations, with lack of equipment indicated as the main reason.
Regarding training of salt producers, only the miners in Kasempa were trained in salt quality improvement. 75% of the miners there were trained and a few of these had already started using the new method. The mining season had only just begun at the time of this survey. Only about 20% of salt producers indicated that they belonged to a cooperative. However, not much has been done in terms of trading salt through cooperatives because they had just been formed. There were several constraints such as resistance to change by the community because of the fear of losing the right to mine salt and the lack of representation of miners in the IDD committee. The changes in the IDD focal person on the district level in Kaputa affected program implementation. Other constraints are that districts regard the IDD program as a vertical program, lack of some key equipment, long distances between the iodation machines and a lack of a standardized reporting system for the districts.
On the consumers' part, 71.3% use iodated salt with marked differences between the two districts: 93.8% in Kasempa and 25% in Kaputa. The way salt is used is important to maintaining the iodine levels - it needs to be added at the end of cooking. Only 15.7% of consumers cook with salt in this manner. The knowledge level of the importance of using iodated salt showed that 47.2% use it to prevent goiter, with 18.5% indicating that it is in order to improve health. At household level, it is recommended to store salt in airtight containers. Of the consumers interviewed, 71.3% indicated that they store their salt in this recommended way, with 18.5% using plastic to store and 4.6% exposing it to the open air. The level of practice was satisfactory but has large room for improvement.
To improve on the program activities, there is a need to take the equipment closer to the miners and intensify education on salt storage and the importance of good packaging. Miners, especially in Kaputa, need to be trained to improve the quality of salt. Strategies should be developed to encourage cooperative formation in the two areas, linking them to markets where their salt can be sold. The machine operators need reorientation on machine maintenance and potassium iodate addition. Enforcement of salt legislation by Health inspectors is a crucial aspect in this program. This would encourage miners to iodate their salt.
The neighborhood committees found in communities are important institutions in terms of health matters. Training of these members as IDD program promoters would help intensify health education.
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