Universal Salt Iodization Project Overview & Objectives

The Bill & Melinda Gates foundation has provided funds for a GAIN-UNICEF partnership to reduce iodine deficiency in 13 countries with a total population of 2.3 billion. These countries are Bangladesh, China, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Niger, Pakistan, Philippines, Senegal, Ukraine and Russia. Countries were selected based on an identified high burden of iodine deficiency. Moreover, several of the countries where the Partnership is working export salt to neighboring areas, so it is expected that the scope of beneficiaries will be beyond those populations living in the countries where we are operational. This is particularly true in West Africa where the Partnership activities in Senegal and Ghana will likely reach into Cote d'Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Benin, Togo, Mauritania, Mali, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Niger. By the end of the Project, the Partnership will have helped to reach more than 790 million people not yet covered by worldwide salt iodization programs, including more than 19 million new born infants every year.

The USI Partnership Project represents a departure from previous program efforts to support salt iodization by establishing sustainable approaches through ensuring an enabling environment embedded in national policies, national ownership, self-financing of salt iodization, equal recognition of the private sector as a partner, national coordination mechanisms, a legislative framework, regulatory measures to make salt iodization a standard and supporting the salt industry with innovative technologies and business approaches.

This overall goal can be broken down into the following 3 objectives:

  • 1st Objective - aims to accelerate efforts towards the sustainable elimination of iodine deficiency as a public health problem through universal salt iodization in 13 countries with a total population of 2.3 billion people and with the lowest coverage of iodized salt and the greatest burden of iodine deficiency. That would cover a total targeted population of 790 million / 20 million Newborns and house hold coverage of 90%.
  • 2nd Objective - aims at looking critically at what can be done differently from previous program efforts and explores innovative approaches to salt iodization by specifically:

- Working together with the salt industry, including producers and distributors in order to increase the supply and accessibility of adequately iodized salt
- Supporting Government oversight and the regulatory environment to assure quality
- Developing market‐based approaches to stimulate long‐term demand for iodized salt among consumers and the food industry

  • 3rd Objective - aims at ensuring action taken are sustainable through time.

The Project Design for the Partnership brings together four complementary and inter‐related program pillars essential for success: Advocacy – Supply – Demand - Evidence.
Taken together, these four pillars and related activities emphasize supporting the capacity and systems that should be in place for sustainable salt iodization programs.
GAIN will be responsible for Supply and Evidence while UNICEF will look after Advocacy and Demand.
Following an in-depth situation analysis in each of the selected countries, a number of important opportunities related to the supply of iodized salt were identified where the Partnership Project can make significant contributions.

These key areas include:

  • Procurement and availability of KIO3 – this has been identified as a major barrier to program success and the lack of clear approaches for long-term supply have hampered efforts to achieve sustainability of salt iodization.
  • Innovative models for the consolidation of small-scale salt production, creating the “Salt Bank” model cooperative that will provide opportunities for small-scale producers of salt to engage in iodization and reduce the availability of non-iodized salt through conventional models and ownership sustainability. The Salt Bank model is an all-inclusive innovative business approach that includes; business and finance, salt production, iodization, packaging, branding, and distribution of an affordable low cost quality adequately iodized salt product aimed at the rural informal market niche. 
  • Strengthening of regulatory monitoring and quality control of salt iodization – a standardized and systematic approach is being undertaken in virtually all countries to assure that iodized salt produced is of good quality and is within the range of expected concentration levels for iodine. The lack of robust regulatory monitoring has been seen as a major impediment across all countries.
  • Include food industry in programming – systematically review the landscape of food industries in different countries to better understand the products and processed foods (which use salt) that are being consumed and the extent to which it is possible to include them in using iodized salt and how to capture these foods in monitoring
  • Monitoring progress in programming – systematically ensure availability of robust data in order to be able to measure project progress/ success and the coverage of iodized salt.

Focus on each of those key areas will vary from country to country depending on local needs and realities while an integrated approach links key drivers.

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