48.9 % of the Gambian Households Consume Iodized Salt Says NaNA PPO

Sarjo Camara Singateh

Iodine deficiency continues to be a serious medical and social problem in Aziz Ceesay, PPO NaNAWest African countries and the Gambia is not an exception with a consumption rate of 48.9%.

This indicates that only 13,800 Gambian infants are protected and 47,200 infants are not protected from the Iodine deficiency disorder and this has increased the goiter population to 16 %. These repercussions could contribute to learning retardness and mental health issues in many people.

This is contained in a report on the situation of malnutrition in the Gambia and beyond by Mr. Abdou Aziz Ceesay, Principal Programme Officer, National Nutrition Agency (NaNA), who elaborated on the development of salt iodization data collection tools which would be a standard document for the health sector and partners. He made the presentation at a three day meeting from the 6th to the 8th August 2014, at the NaNA conference hall and which was funded by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

According to Mr. Ceesay, despite some encouraging progress, micronutrient malnutrition remains a major public health problem in all West African countries, in particular Iodine Deficiency Disorders.

“IDDs – present most typical example of micronutrient disorders, they are widespread throughout West Africa affecting all population group and affect mainly women and children and contribute to some of the highest rates of child mortality in the world,” he said.

The Principal Programme Officer at NaNA said The Gambia falls within the regions where IDDs are serious medical and social problems and with the population of goiter estimated at 16%, the presence of visible goiter which has traumatic effects on the affected children, causing absenteeism, inferiority complex and sometimes severe discomfort.

“Changes in nutritional status led to increase in aliment-dependent diseases, particular IDDs in children and women of reproductive age,” said Mr. Ceesay.

The DHS Survey reports that 48.9% of household nationally are consuming iodized salt. “Studies have shown that approximately 80,000 tons of salt are consumed in The Gambia annually of the 80,000 tonnes, only 10% is produced locally and about 90% is imported into The Gambia,” he said.

He noted that out of the 90% imported into The Gambia, 80% comes from Senegal. Looking at the population of Nigeria with an official figure of 160 million people, 98% of the population consume Iodised salt, 6 million infant protected and only 180,000 infant are not protected and they are the only country with which attained the USAID target 90 consumption.

Speaking earlier, Mr. Malang Fofana, the Deputy Executive Director of NaNA, said monitoring of iodised salt is every ones’ business irrespective of your trade, and it is incumbent on all of us to consume iodised salt in the country. He urged participants to develop the tool that would be used for data collection and this will help at any given time where data is needed. He said they are faced with a double burden, under nutrition and over nutrition.

Mr. Fofana said they did a survey in NBR and CRR the result reveals that obesity and over weight is a problem. He noted that with data they would be able to help them in targeting where they can intervene.

He urged the participants to take the workshop seriously and come up with a comprehensive tool for data collection.

Mr. Momodou Njai, the Director of Health Promotion and Education, said they are gathered there to compliment the efforts of NaNA because promoting iodised consumption was initiated by them in1999. He said the three days meeting is very important as it will help produce a unified document that will be used by NaNA and the health ministry so that they can speak the same language in this area of salt iodiasation.

Mr. Njai thanked NaNA for their tireless efforts in the promotion of iodine consumption. He said the objective of the workshop is to enable them to track the iodised salt in the country and to provide evidence of the use of iodised salt in the country among other things.

Mr. Omar Badjie, the Programme Manager Non- Communicable Diseases, said the essence of the gathering is the development of a data collection tool on iodised salt. He called on participants to come up with a user friendly document that will make data collection effective.

The opening was chaired by Mr. Mohamed Saho who stressed the importance attached to the used of iodine salt.