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Low Consumption of Iodised Salt Threatens Almost all Children in The Gambia

Jul 8, 2008, 7:01 AM | Article By: By Nfamara Jawneh

According to the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey iii (MICS) reports launched on the 30thof June 2008, The Gambia has a low consumption rate of iodised salt. This corresponds with the most recent UNICEF Report, which tracked progress since the 1990 World Summit for children on the elimination of iodine deficiency. In that report, globally, The Gambia ranked only second from bottom ahead of Guinea-Bissau. 93% of children in The Gambia eat salt that is not iodised exposing them to less learning ability.

A media release from UNICEF states that it's estimated that because the consumption of un-iodised salt in The Gambia is so widespread, our children's IQ average has been lowered by as much as 15 percentage points. This means that children's intellectual capacities are affected, eroding their ability to retain information in their learning processes. Additionally, the release added, mothers are subsequently affected, because women who also do not consume iodised salt are at risk of miscarriages, and sill births, which contributes to the Maternal Mortality Rate, which is one highest in West Africa.

Despite a worldwide effort to drastically raise the level of consumption of Iodised salt globally from less than 20% in 1990 to 70% today, countries like The Gambia are in a precarious situation. In the case of The Gambia a decrease in consumption of iodised salt has actually been registered, from 8% in 1995 to 7% in 2005. " This situation threatens all the gains made in immunisation, education, sensitisation and protection," the release added.Children in The Gambia are today, amongst the most threatened. The risk of physical deformity, blindness, infections such as server anaemia and measles are greater when children do not have enough iodine in their bodies. This affects almost 10,000 babies born each year, who suffer from intellectual impairment caused by iodine deficiency in pregnancy.

UNICEF urges strong partnerships to ensure that the commitment made by the government of The Gambia, through the National Assembly and the Cabinet, in enacting the Food Act is built upon to ensure that all children and pregnant women in The Gambia consume iodised salt and a diet rich in iodine.