Iodine deficiency is the leading cause of preventable brain damage and can significantly lower the IQ of whole populations. The most severe impacts of iodine deficiency occur during fetal development and in the first few years of life. Globally, 38 million infants are born without the protection that iodine offers the growing brain, and 18 million are mentally impaired as a result, according to UNICEF and the World Bank.
Because salt is commonly consumed, even in impoverished areas, it is an ideal vehicle to carry iodine. Adding iodine to salt provides protection from brain damage.
Senegal is an important salt producing country but less than half of what they produce is adequately iodized. For several years, the Micronutrient Initiative (MI), through ongoing DFATD support, worked with government departments, industry and producers' organizations on monitoring, testing and improving iodization methods.
The MI works with members of small salt cooperatives in Senegal to develop a sustainable process for iodizing salt, improving the lives of young children and newborns by providing technical assistance to new microenterprises. In 2010, MI activities provided more than 12 million people in Senegal with iodized salt.