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A Pinch of Salt

Workers at Shewit Salt Producers Cooperative add iodine to Salt – Mekelle, Tigray, Ethiopia. Photo: Israel Seone

In the desert of Afar, salt has been mined for centuries.

Would you list iodine as an essential part of a balanced diet? It is and although we only need a minute amount of it, if we don’t get the necessary tiny quantities of this mineral our health can be severely affected. 

A lack of iodine causes goitre, a painful and unsightly swelling of the thyroid gland, and can heavily stunt cognitive development. In Ireland, trace amounts of iodine in the soil are absorbed by our food and enter our diets naturally.  However, in Ethiopia a lack of naturally occurring iodine in the soil means that these symptoms, and the social stigma that accompanies them, are a serious problem.

With Irish Aid support, GAIN have been successful in iodising 80% of Ethiopia’s salt in 2012.

With help from Ireland, Shewit Salt Producers’ Cooperative based in Mekelle in Tigray is working to change this. Ethiopia has long been famous for its production of salt. In the desert of Afar, salt has been mined for centuries and transported in camel caravans across the Horn of Africa. Salt was once even used as a form of currency in Ethiopia. Now Shewit, working with the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), is adapting this age old trade.

In their small factory in Mekelle, Tigray they are now adding iodine to salt. As it is widely used in cooking, salt is an ideal way to add iodine to people’s diets. It is cheap, easy and very effective.

With the help of Irish Aid, in 2012 GAIN have been successful in iodising 80% of Ethiopia’s salt, resulting in improved nutrition and health for millions of people in Ethiopia. 

Our work on nutrition

Learn more about how Irish Aid supports improved nutrition in our Key Partner Countries