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09.02.2005 General News

Aliu launches Ghana's strategy to overcome iodine deficiency

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Accra, Feb 09, GNA - Vice President Aliu Mahama on Wednesday launched a national strategy that seeks to use salt to eliminate iodine deficiency, which impairs the intellectual capacity of about 120,000 babies in Ghana annually, by the end of the year.

Following the West African Consultation on Universal Salt Iodisation held in Dakar, Senegal, in October last year, Ghana renewed its commitment to eliminate the micronutrient deficiency, which causes irreversible brain damage in babies resulting in the loss of about 15 points in intelligence quotient.

Iodine deficiency also results in neo-natal deaths, goitre, stillbirths and chronic tiredness, and ultimately deprives the nation about one per cent of its GDP.

To drastically reduce these losses, Vice President Mahama announced that a code of conduct was to be introduced to ensure that all salt produced and sold in Ghana would be iodated by April as part of the strategy.

Dubbed, "The National Strategy for Universal Salt Iodisation," the scheme aims at strengthening regulatory agencies to effectively control the quality of iodised salt, enforce relevant laws at the production and retail levels and initiate salt tests at road check points by the middle of March.

The time-bound strategy, formulated jointly by the Ghana Health Service, UNICEF, salt producers and other relevant stakeholders, would also obtain high political commitment to link the salt programme to other national plans such as poverty reduction, child survival and development and the Free Compulsory Universal Basic Education. Vice President Mahama noted that though Act 523 of 1996 makes iodisation of salt for both human and animal consumption mandatory, a survey conducted in 2003 revealed that only 44 per cent of households in Ghana adequately used iodised salt.

The content of iodine in salt should be 50 part per million (50ppm) the Ghana Standards Board has prescribed.

Vice President Mahama, therefore, urged all stakeholders, particularly salt producers to embrace the strategy to achieve the universal coverage target of 90 per cent by the deadline.

"It is important to emphasise that this well-crafted strategy cannot be successfully implemented and the desired objectives achieved unless all stakeholders effectively play their roles," he stressed, and pledged his personal commitment to the cause.

He noted that some regional salt iodisation committees were not effective in the past as was demonstrated in the disparate levels of achievements, revealed by the survey.

"For example," he pointed out, "household levels ranged from a high of 63 per cent to 78.3 per cent in the Upper West, Ashanti and Brong Ahafo regions, while on the other hand Greater Accra, Central and Volta regions ranged between 12 per cent to 41 per cent."

He gave the assurance that the multi-sector iodisation committees and the national salt producers associations would be strengthened to coordinate the national efforts, while the appropriate linkages would be established with ECOWAS member countries to harmonise standards and remove trade barriers.

Experts have blamed the low use of iodised salt on small-scale producers who are said to lack the relevant equipment and know-how to fortify their product with potassium iodine.

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