Bon Sel Initiative
Lymphatic filariasis (LF) and Iodine Deficiency Disorders (IDD) are two serious health threats in Haiti. Transmitted by mosquitoes, LF is one of the most common disfiguring diseases in the world and can cause extreme swelling in the extremities. Left untreated it can also increase the risk of bacterial infections. IDD is the world’s leading cause of developmental brain damage, and a 2019 UNICEF and Ministry of Health survey reveals that more than 70% of Haitian children and women of childbearing age are iodine deficient. However, while LF and IDD are life-altering, they can be prevented with salt fortified with diethylcarbamazine-citrate (DEC) and potassium-iodate (KIO3).
When properly implemented, the efficacy of co-fortified salt is striking. A community-wide pilot using co-fortified iodized DEC salt in Miton, Haiti dramatically halted the transmission of LF and eliminated IDD within just months. However, both returned the following year when co-fortified salt was discontinued in the community.1
The Global Center for the Development of the Whole Child’s (GG-DWC) Bon Sel Initiative (BSI), formerly Haiti Salt Project (HSP), seeks to eliminate LF and prevent IDD in Haiti through the production and distribution of fortified salt. Inaugurated in 2014, BSI’s production facility, in Port au Prince, is the only Haitian supplier of packaged, fortified salt, under its Bon Sel Dayiti brand name. Currently, Bon Sel Dayiti is the only food-grade, iodized, and fortified salt produced in Haiti.
Notably, BSI’s footprint extends beyond combating LF and IDD. Recognizing the nutritional and educational impact of meals at Haitian schools prepared with fortified salt, BSI has been active in school-meal programs in Haiti since its inception, having developed partnerships with the World Food Programme and Fonkoze.
Similarly, when a study conducted in the spring of 2017 revealed that 3.6 million Haitians were food insecure and 1.5 million were severely food insecure (FAO and WFP 2017), the GC-DWC’s Strong Beginnings initiative in Haiti undertook an internal study of schools in its network to determine the nutritional status of its students. Findings indicated that a significant number of children missed meals and attended school on empty stomachs. Understanding the crucial role that nutrition and food security play in not only students’ physical development but also their cognitive and social and emotional development, the Strong Beginnings initiative began to actively collaborate with the most central networks of the Haitian community - the home, school, and community - to identify opportunities to meet students’ nutritional needs.
The synergies between these two initiatives at the GC-DWC has led to a new collaboration between BSI and the Strong Beginnings initiative to integrate innovative nutrition and education programs into schools in order to address all aspects of a child’s wellbeing.
Goals, Progress, and Impact
Founded in 2006, BSI has become a leading supplier of fortified salt in Haiti, drastically lowering the number of communes in which LF is present in Haiti from 84% to 15%. In the next three years, BSI seeks to develop a distribution and processing facility in Cap Haitien to complement its facility in Port au Prince and distribute fortified salt to 3 million residents in northern Haiti.
BSI’s guiding objectives are to:
Improve the health, nutrition, and educational outcomes of all Haitians, particularly young mothers and school-age children.
Develop a self-sustaining business model as a social-enterprise working to improve public health and support future economic growth.
Develop a repository of knowledge in-country in order to assure know-how and benefits are sustained.
Procure, process, package, and distribute fortified salt competitively to the retail, foodservice, and food-processing markets in Haiti.
Provide specialty salt and services profitably to the industrial market in Haiti and elsewhere.
Donate to the Bon Sel Initiative
BSI operates within the Congregation de Sainte Croix-Haiti as a non-profit entity, in coordination with the Haitian Ministry of Health, and with technical support from Cargill, Inc.
1. Freeman A, Lammie PJ, Houston R, LaPoint MD, Streit TG, Jooste PL, Brissau JM, Lafontant JG, Addiss DG. A community-based trial for the control of lymphatic filariasis and iodine deficiency using salt fortified with diethylcarbamazine and iodine. Am. J. Trop. Med. 65(6);2001:865-871.