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"Iodine deficiency is a silent threat that affects millions of people around the globe" - Health Minister

Updated: Feb 22

The Outgoing Minister of Health, Kwaku Agyeman-Manu, has described iodine deficiency as a silent threat that affects millions of people around the globe.

According to the Minister, it leads to serious health complications, especially among women and children.

Reading a speech on his behalf, Director of Pharmacy, Ministry of Health, Dr. Joycelyn Aziz said “In 1994, the WHO recommended Universal Salt Iodisation (USI) as a global strategy to facilitate adequate iodine regulation for all individuals"

"This strategy sort to attain a minimum of 90% households consumption of adequately ionised salt to facilitate the eradication of Iron deficiency diseases”

“Unfortunately, notwithstanding the implementation of the Universal Salt Iodisation strategy, Ghana has not yet attained the WHO target of 90% households consumption of adequately ionised salt”

Dr. Aziz hinted that a study in 2014 showed that consumption levels were as low as 39% among Ghanaians.

“In light of the above, Ghana intends to re-launch its Universal Salt Iodisation project. This initiative is not just a health intervention but a commitment to the well-being of the communities that holds profound significance in our collective efforts towards improved health outcomes”

“As we embark on this important journey, let us reflect on the strides we have made in the past on this same agenda and together work towards a future where every individual enjoys the benefits of iodine sufficiency”

On her part, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Food and Drugs Authority (FDA), Dr. Delese A. A. Darko said "Iodine deficiency in both humans and animals has adverse implications on health, collectively termed Iodine Deficiency Disorders or IDDs. These include still births, congenital defects and decreased cognitive capacity, infant mortality, delayed physical development and goiter"

She also noted that inadequate iodine nutrition and IDDs are global health concerns which have been the subject of discussions at many international summits since the 1990s.

"Accordingly, in 1994, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended Universal Salt Iodization as a global strategy to facilitate adequate iodine nutrition for all individuals. With this strategy, WHO sought to attain a minimum of 90% household consumption of adequately iodized salt to facilitate eradication of IDDs.

Ghana enacted Universal Salt Iodization under the Food and Drugs Act 523 in 1996"

"We developed and implemented the USI strategic plans I (2005 – 2007) and USI strategic plans II (2009 – 2011) through the National Salt Iodization Committee.

These plans were to facilitate sustainable elimination of IDDs and you can find this in the Ghana Demographic Health Survey, 2014"

"The initial USI Programme slowed down partly due to its reliance on external funding, especially for crucial aspects like acquisition of test kits"

"In the interim the Food and Drugs Authority, in line with its mandate of protecting public health and safety, has purchased some test kits and is preparing to distribute them to stakeholders"

"Currently, salt iodization practices among artisanal salt producers is poor. A survey conducted by the Food and Drugs Authority in December, 2022 revealed that nearly 70% of artisanal salt producers do not apply iodate during processing, and 100% of rock salt sampled from major markets in Greater Accra were not iodized.

Additionally, iodate content of 50% of prepackaged salt sampled were below standard"

These findings, she hinted have necessitated efforts to revive the Universal Salt Iodization Programme with specific emphasis on strengthening enforcement.

In accordance with Section 107 of the Public Health Act, 2012, Act 851, only iodised salt for human and animal consumption shall be imported, manufactured and traded in Ghana.

The World Health Organization (WHO) on their part explained that since 1994, it together with UNICEF have recommended Universal Salt Iodization (USI), as a safe cost effective and sustainable strategy to ensure sufficient intake of Iodine by all.

The WHO noted that over the last decades remarkable progress was made in the elimination of iodine deficiency disorders.

"In 2006, globally 68% of households were consuming adequately iodized salt, 64% in sub-saharan Africa and 72% in Central and West Africa (UNICEF, Global Databank on Iodized Salt). However, a report presented to the World Health Assembly in 2022, indicated that progress had stalled with 21 countries across all regions globally estimated to have insufficient iodine intakes in 2022, an increase from 19 countries in 2017. This is a worrying trend that requires action"

"Ladies and gentlemen, as most of us will recall the last comprehensive IDD survey carried out in Ghana (Ghana IDD Survey Report, 2017) found that a large proportion of salt at the household level was not adequately iodized"

"Universal salt iodization still remains a cost-effective strategy for the control of Iodine Deficiency Disorders, and I am therefore pleased that the Food and Drugs Authority in collaboration with other key stakeholder are relaunching the Universal Salt Iodization Programme"

"This is an opportunity to review our implementation journey; scale up what we are doing well, identify the gaps that need to addressed and re-strategize on the way forward"

"As you deliberate and forge the way forward, it is important to also consider other current public health recommendations such as sodium reduction strategies and ensure that comprehensive monitoring of sodium and iodine at the country level are foreseen for safe and effective individual iodine consumption"

Taking his turn, Nutrition Officer at UNICEF, Jevaise Aballo hinted that according to the 2011 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey, an estimated 500,000 Ghanaian children are at risk of permanent brain damage due to IDDs.

He stessed that Universal Salt Iodization (USI) has been the major strategy to ensure adequate intake of Iodine in Ghana.

"This approach, he noted was backed by the Public Health Act 851 (2012) on mandatory fortification of all salt for human and animal consumption. Chairman, over the past two decades, Ghana has achieved tremendous progress to prevent iodine deficiency through universal salt iodization (USI)"

"Ghana is a key player in the success with respect to salt production, processing, and exportation to several countries in the region. Despite the critical benefits of iodine, household leve only 30% adequately Iodized. There are also disparities in household access to iodized salt by the rapidly changing landscape is threatening the gains of previous investments and consequently the risk of sliding back to IDDS thus the need for revitalization of iodine nutrition in to sustain the gains made in the last two decades, UNICEF is working collaboratively with FDA, GHS and other partners to renew the momentum on universal iodization of salt"

"Through UNICEF and Iodine Global Network (IGN) partnership, a landscape analysis of iodine nutrition in Ghana and contribution of processed food to iodine nutrition assessments were conducted in 2021. Subsequently, an assessment of salt trade in Ghana was conducted"

"As part of steps to renew the momentum, UNICEF facilitated the participation of FDA at the Global Universal Salt Iodization convening at the UNICEF Headquarters in New York and a follow up regional level convening in Dakar which offered the opportunity for exchange of ideas on the roadmap to revamp USI"

"Mr. Chairman, at the Country level, UNICEF provided support to FDA to assess, adjust and revitalize the national programme for the elimination of IDD through USI"

Leaders of the various salt stakeholders hinted tha the use of local dialects through its education will not only educate the maket women but also keep them on their toes.

They also appealed to the FDA to ensure the availability of test kits.

Story by: Joshua Kwabena Smith



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