Sep 30, 2009, 8:01 AM
The Ministry of Health and Social Welfare through the National Nutrition Agency (NaNA) supported by Unicef last Friday commemorated the Iodine Deficiency Disorders (IDD) Day at a ceremony held at the KMC grounds.
Speaking at the ceremony, Kebba Touray, Minister of Trade, Regional Integration and Employment, said iodine is needed for the normal development of the baby’s brain during pregnancy.
He noted that pregnant women living in iodine deficient regions are more likely to give birth to children suffering from mental health impairment, ranging from mild mental retardation to cretinism, characterized by severe brain damage and dwarfism.
He added: “According to various studies 3% of all babies born to iodine deficient mothers will be cretins, 10% will be severely mentally retarded and 87% would present some degree of intellectual deficit.”
He revealed that in The Gambia, the population with goiter is estimated at 16%, the presence of visible goiter has traumatic effects on the affected children, causing absenteeism, inferiority complex and sometimes severe discomfort.
“The mental impairment caused by iodine deficiency is permanent, but with appropriate interventions to counter iodine deficiency such as iodized salt, thousands of newborns could be saved from various forms of mental retardation,” he added.
According to Mr Dato Sigua, a representative of Unicef, since the application of the report nine years ago, the government of the Gambia has undertaken some significant investments to address these concerns with support from Unicef and the International Council for Control of IDD.
“National Nutrition Agency has since developed a national IDD programme that seeks to promote household utilization of iodized salt. As a result, among other interventions, the 2010 multiple indicator cluster survey reports that 23% of household nationally are consuming iodized salt.”
He said that due to this remarkable improvement from 7% household consumption reported in the 2005 multiple indicator cluster survey, Unicef is committed to continue supporting NaNA in the fight against iodine deficiency disorders caused by inadequate consumption of iodine.
He told the gathering that, this year, Unicef raised US$85,000 to develop the capacity of the national IDD programme.“Apart from training and systems development for the IDD programme, a salt mapping survey was conducted to identify all salt landing and retail outlets, as well as salt dealers and traders,” he said.
He added that a national salt regulatory mechanism was revitalized, and a new national salt regulatory committee inaugurated by the health minister.
He finally expressed profound appreciation to NaNA for their professionalism, diligence and hard work for their effective collaboration with Unicef to ensure that the fundamental right of access to iodized salt for children is fully meet.
Yuspha Sanyang, deputy mayor of KMC in his welcome remarks, stated that iodized salt is the government’s mainstay for prevention of goiter.
He commended the efforts of NaNA, Unicef and The Gambia government for ensuring that people are sensitized about the need to use iodized salt to remain healthy and strong at all times.