PAKISTAN – The Punjab Health Department, with assistance from the Micronutrient Initiative (MI), has decided to bring forth legislation on mandatory universal salt iodization (USI).
The adviser to the Chief Minister on Health, Government of Punjab, Khawaja Salman Rafique requested MI to support the health department in preparing a draft bill, to be presented for approval at the Punjab assembly in the coming months. He has assured his support in ensuring the bill for USI is presented and, once passed, is enforced by law.
MI is providing technical expertise, capacity building for quality control, monitoring and supervisory support. MI is supporting this strategy through a number of fortification programs, in Asia specifically working for salt iodization, grain and oil fortification.
“MI is supporting the Department of Health, Government of Punjab (Pakistan) for implementing Universal Salt Iodization (USI),” said Dr Tausif Janjua, Country Director, MI Pakistan. “Our work has helped increase household consumption of iodized salt from 17% in 2001 to 69% in 2011 (NNS).”
“We are now advocating for legislation to ensure this impact is sustained. Parliamentarians have a big responsibility to ensure the mandatory salt iodization bill moves forward, as this concerns the mental and physical health of our children,” Dr Tausif Janjua said.
“WHO and FAO identify food fortification as one of the top four strategies for decreasing micronutrient malnutrition,” said John McCullough, Regional Director, MI Asia who welcomed the announcement.
The government’s universal salt iodization (USI) program, with the assistance of MI and other partners, has achieved significant results. However, without national or provincial mandatory USI legislation, regulatory and enforcement challenges remain. Currently, pure food rules and district-level legislation are being used for enforcement but legislation has to be enacted to sustain enforcement.
After the 18th constitutional amendment of 2010, responsibility for health became a provincial subject. This means that national level laws cannot be enacted without collaboration and consensus between the provinces.
MI has successfully advocated for USI legislation in Sindh province and the legislation in Punjab province would pave the way for a national legislation.
“The Punjab Health Department is to be highly commended in recognizing the key role of fortification to improve the health of its population, in particular for adolescent girls, pregnant women and newborns, by bringing forth legislation on mandatory salt iodization,” John McCullough said.
MI stands ready to continue its support to the Punjab Health Department, including helping to ensure effective enforcement of the new legislation once it is in place.