By Debashish Chanda, Portfolio Lead, GAIN Bangladesh
Iodine deficiency is the single greatest cause of preventable mental impairment globally. It causes many other adverse effects on growth and development, such as goitre, due to inadequate thyroid hormone production. These iodine deficiency disorders (IDD) can be effectively and inexpensively prevented by iodizing all salt for human and animal consumption (known as Universal Salt Iodization or USI).
The Government of Bangladesh passed a law in 1989 making it mandatory for all edible salt to be iodized, one of the first countries to do so in the region. This has led to a decrease in IDD and goitre. However, IDD persists and more must be done to address the coverage and consumption of adequately iodised salt amongst all parts of the Bangladesh population. Drafting and enacting a new salt law with improved penalties and incentives coupled with improving the visibility of strong performers in the salt industry are two ways to achieve more comprehensive prevention of IDD in Bangladesh.
The Control of Iodine Deficiency Disorders (CIDD) Project under the Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation (BSCIC) with the support of development partners including the the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), UNICEF and Nutrition International (NI) drafted an amendment to the current law updating rules regarding 1) production, 2) importation and 3) and packaging of crude salt.
Enacting this law is an immediate priority as well as sensitizing the private sector of its implications. To honour the work played by the private sector to date in fighting IDD, the “Best Iodized Salt Mills Award 2017” event was held on Tuesday, 26 June 2018. This event – led by the CIDD with support of the Development Partners, GAIN, UNICEF and NI — was the first-of-its-kind to honour producers who were the most compliant in salt iodisation. Furthermore, it served as a platform bringing together all stakeholders from the public and the private sector. The winners and participants public ally renewed their commitments to salt iodisation in presence of two Honourable Ministers.
One of the industry recipients of the award said, “Such initiatives are a great reminder of the cause we all work for, and such encouragement gives us a feeling that we are important. It’s also a great chance to directly talk to the high-ups and discuss our concerns and likely solutions.”
The Honourable Minister of the Ministry of Industries (MoInd) along with the Honourable Minister of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MOHFW) reiterated the importance of a new salt law in the event. GAIN, UNICEF and NI hope that the occasion of awarding the private sector will also revive the approval process for the new law as it is crucial that the private sector conforms to the changes. GAIN, like other partners, are also committed to support the Government of Bangladesh towards an improved salt law.
GAIN has been supporting the CIDD Project since 2011 by providing technical assistance where required, organising advocacy workshops, delivering equipment for Quality Assurance (QA) & Quality Control (QC) and monitoring purposes, among other things. The centrally managed premix procurement of the CIDD Project has been a beneficiary of GAIN Premix Facility’s (GPF) expertise in maintaining quality, price effective and timely supply of the potassium iodate (KIO3) premix. All these efforts and working together with partners will lead to achieve the expected success of Universal Salt Iodisation program in Bangladesh.