Progress is precious and can be fragile - let's unite for it, and protect it
The news this week about the potential global malnutrition impacts
of war in Ukraine, together with the climate crisis we already face and the ravages to global food supply chains caused by COVID-19, have provided added motivation to IGN (not that we needed any!) to try to make the work we do sustainable for future generations.
On the face of it, the news is not good. From the perspective of salt iodization, we are experiencing some setbacks. In addition to supply chain disruptions from COVID-19, we had also been seeing shortages of potassium iodate – which is added to salt to provide the iodine content.
Chile produces the bulk of the world’s iodine supply. During a recent visit by IGN Regional Coordinator Rodrigo Moreno-Reyes, the principal iodine producers there explained that the current global iodine shortage was due to increased demand. This is likely driven by additional needs for iodine for medical purposes during the pandemic and exacerbated by demand for iodine tablets in Europe to safeguard against risk of thyroid cancer in the case of a nuclear accident. The Chilean producers advised that their production would not increase in the coming 4-5 years.
IGN’s Regional Coordinator, Gregory Gerasimov and our National Coordinator for Moldova, Lillia Turcan, have just reported on the disruption of iodized salt production and supply from the Artyomsalt Mines in Donetsk, Ukraine. While the mines are situated in an area currently controlled by Ukraine, it is a focus of intense fighting. Artyomsalt is the largest (by the production capacity) salt producer in Eastern Europe, covering 95% of salt needs in Ukraine and exporting technical and edible salt to 16 countries. Moldova and Georgia, lacking their own salt production capacity, are critically dependent on iodized salt from this producer.
The conflict has disrupted transportation of iodized salt to other countries in the region. As of early March 2022, no iodized salt has travelled to Moldova since the railway connection between the two countries has been halted. With only a two-week supply of iodized salt left as of mid-April, Moldovan salt importers began negotiating with Romanian and Turkish producers to make up for the losses, but prices are likely to rise steeply. IGN is still looking into the situation in Georgia and other countries in the region.
These developments are a microcosm of a complex global situation that has impacts for all of us who work to improve nutrition around the world. The UN Food Systems and Nutrition for Growth Summits in 2021 drew attention to the urgent need for action towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, and we are working in partnership towards achieving those goals. The global progress we have made so far is excellent, but as we can see it cannot be taken for granted, and the situation is fragile in some countries. Despite, and indeed because of these setbacks, we must protect it by seeking sustainability in new ways, finding new resources and innovative solutions, and reaching those as yet unprotected. From IGN’s perspective, the world cannot afford to return to a situation where the brain development of many people is hampered. That is what motivates us, now more than ever.