The National Nutrition Agency (NaNA) yesterday organized a press briefing for media practitioners in the country, exposing them to Iodine Deficiency Disorders (IDD).
Speaking at the ceremony held at the NaNA office in Kanifing, Malang Fofana, program manager at NaNA, described the role of the media in IDD information dissemination as crucial.
Nothing that iodine is a micronutrient required by the body in small amounts, he added that the lack of this can affect the human brain.
In The Gambia, IDD is one of the major health concerns, and NaNA has put in strategies to ensure people consume food that contains iodine such as sea foods or iodize salt, Fofana said.
He went on to explain that The Gambia produces salt, and that 22 per cent of households consume iodized salt, adding that the Gambia is far behind in reaching the target of IDD per household.
“If you want to change a community you must educate and inform them about IDD, and with the help of the media we will be able to reach the whole country”, Fofana went on, while assuring the gathering that by 2015 The Gambia will reach the IDD target.
Abdou Aziz Ceesay, IEC officer at NaNA, stated that the main deficiency diseases are related to a lack of iodine, iron and vitamin A.
According to him, more than 1.5 billion of the world’s population is at risk of lacking iodine.
He revealed that the World Health Organization estimates that more than 665 million people have IDD, and 43 million have brain disorders and mental retardation caused by iodine deficiency.
The Gambia falls within the regions where IDDs are serious medical and social problems, according to Mr. Ceesay, who added that in The Gambia, the population with goiter is estimated at 16%, further pointing out that the presence of visible goiter has traumatic effects on the affected children, causing absenteeism, inferiority complex and sometimes severe discomfort.
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.
According to him, the government of The Gambia has undertaken some significant investments to address these concerns, with support from Unicef and the International Council for IDD, and Unicef raised US$85,000 this year to develop the capacity of the national IDD program.
In highlighting the way forward, he said they will make sure that all salt imported into The Gambia must be iodized at source, the proper labeling and bagging of iodized salt with regular training of authorities on IDD, as well as aggressive advocacy and sensitization of the populace on the importance of consuming iodized salt.