Micronutrient Deﬁciencies, deﬁned as a lack of essential vitamins and minerals required in small amounts by the body for proper growth and development, is now recognized as an important contributor to the global burden of diseases. It affects several million people around the world and contributes to growth retardation, impaired intellectual performance, reduced work capacity, morbidity and mortality. These lead to adverse socioeconomic retardation of entire communities and therefore nations. Micronutrient malnutrition has been identified as the ‘Hidden Hunger’. The three most common forms of micronutrient deficiency are Iodine Deficiency Disorders (IDD), Vitamin A Deficiency (VAD) and Iron Deficiency Anaemia (IDA). The key strategies used in fighting micronutrient deficiencies include: the promotion of the consumption of food rich in micronutrients, the fortification of salt for iodine deficiency, the supplementation of children under-five with vitamin A capsules and the provision of iron folic acid tablets for pregnant women.
Micronutrient Deﬁciencies are a huge problem in The Gambia and the deficiencies of public health concern are Vitamin A, Iron Deﬁciency Anemia, and Iodine
Deﬁciency. Almost 50.9% of non-pregnant women (15-49 years) and 56.8% of pregnant women are aﬀected by anaemia, nationally, 18.2% have Vitamin A deficiency (VAD), Iron deficiency (ID) and Iron deficiency anemia (IDA) are 59.0% and 38.2%, respectively in Gambian children 6-59 months of age, (GMNS, 2018).
The Micronutrient Deﬁciency Control Programme of The Gambia aims to reduce or eliminate micronutrient deﬁciencies of public health importance among the most vulnerable population, particularly women and children. NaNA, in collaboration with partners have been implementing several programmes over the years to help combat the problem. The following interventions have been designed and are being implemented to reduce the prevalence:
Anaemia Control– the government is currently trying to combat the issue of Iron Deficiency Anemia in pregnant women through iron folic acid supplementation during antenatal clinic attendance, promotion of dietary diversification as well as fortification and biofortification.
Vitamin A Supplementation (VAS) – aims at supplementing all children 6–59 months (100,000 IU) every 6 months. Post–partum mothers are also supplemented with a high dose supplement (200,000 IU) within eight weeks of delivery.
Deworming– to deworm all children from 12-59 months with mebendazole every six months.
Salt iodization– working with communities and other partners to increase salt production, improve quality, as well as to iodize the salt produced. Iodized Salt is currently being produced in The Gambia mainly from Bintang, Jokadou Darsilameh, Joulie, Kombo Darsilameh, Masembeh, and Foni Darsilameh. The salt produced is iodized in the communities by members of the National Association of Salt Producers and Traders (NASPaT) present in the salt producing communities. Thanks to this great initiative, World Food Programme is able to buy locally produced iodized salt for the School Feeding Programme in the country.
Multiple Micronutrient Powder (MMP) Supplementation– aims at giving children 6-24 months MMPs to sprinkle on their foods to improve the micronutrient content. This programme is currently being implemented in Lower River Region, Central River Region, North Bank Regions, and West Coast Region.