GAIN-UNICEF Universal Salt Iodization Partnership Project
Iodine deficiency is the most prevalent cause of brain damage worldwide. It is easily preventable, and through ongoing targeted interventions, can be eliminated. Iodine is a mineral essential for human development and growth. The human body needs iodine to produce the hormones that regulate the thyroid gland. Iodine deficiency primarily affects the developing brain and leads to cretinism and other physical and mental impairments. The most commonly known sign of iodine deficiency is goiter, the swelling of the thyroid gland in the neck.
Universal Salt Iodization (USI) is recognized as a simple, safe and cost-effective measure in addressing iodine deficiency. The World Bank reports that it costs US$.05 per child, per year. Unfortunately, in 2007 after 15 years of global USI interventions, only 70 percent of households in developing countries have access to iodized salt. Programs have stalled and in some cases iodized salt coverage has even declined. New models are needed to reach harder to reach populations and increase coverage, and to assure that achievements are sustained.
A Market-Based Approach
The GAIN-UNICEF Universal Salt Iodization Partnership Project responds to this requirement for new models of salt iodization. GAIN and UNICEF received funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2008 to contribute to global efforts to eliminate iodine deficiency through salt iodization in 13 countries with the lowest coverage of iodized salt and the greatest burden of iodine deficiency. These 13 countries are Bangladesh, China, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Niger, Pakistan, Philippines, Russia, Senegal and Ukraine. The project aims to reach 90 percent of the population in these nations with iodized salt. This represents more than 790 million people not yet covered by worldwide salt iodization programs, including more than 19 million newborn infants every year.
Through the seven-year project, GAIN focuses on the supply side of the salt market and will support small- and large-scale salt producers to move to quality iodized salt production that adheres to standards and government regulations and links to distribution networks. GAIN is also responsible for strengthening the capacity to implement robust public health Monitoring & Evaluation to track progress towards USI and verify the elimination of iodine deficiency disorders (IDD).
To complement these efforts, UNICEF works to create and strengthen long-term demand for iodized salt among consumers and the food industry as well as to reinforce government and public sector commitment through advocacy.
Read more about the GAIN-UNICEF partnership's objectives and key areas of work.