Social Development MEC Sharna Fernandez Photo: African News Agency (ANA)
Cape Town – As the country's top brewers and leading distributors of beer, South African Breweries (SAB) have pledged their support to raise awareness about foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS).

On Monday, which was International Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Day, SAB hosted an awareness event in Mpumalanga to bring attention to FAS, of which South Africa has the highest prevalence in the world, according to the Foundation for Alcohol Related Research (FARR).

SAB said they were concerned about responsible drinking and the health of the communities in which they operated.

In 2016, SAB said they invested R3.1million towards the building of the Hlayisani Centre of Hope in Mpumalanga, but would not comment on funding for 2019 FAS awareness campaigns.

Despite this, Pamela Nkuna, SAB smart drinking and corporate social responsibility manager Africa, said the business was “at the forefront of the attack on alcohol abuse, investing millions every year into high impact programmes that made a real difference to underage drinking, responsible traders, FAS, drinking and driving, and other issues”.

Nkuna said their committed investments were to assist FARR with on- going research in the area of FASD.

“This year, SAB partnered with the National Department of Transport and the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Transport, and launched an Alcohol Evidence Centre in the centre of Pietermaritzburg.”

Nkuna said FAS was entirely preventable. “FAS is 100% preventable through education of women about the dangers of alcohol consumption during pregnancy, which is where we see ourselves playing a key role.

“A key element of our vision for Africa is to make a real difference in society by investing in programmes that improve the well-being and livelihoods of communities,” said Nkuna.

Sophia Warner, spokesperson for non-profit organisation Pebbles Project, which works with wine farming communities, said: “Organisations in the Western Cape get considerable support from the liquor industry, especially the Cape wine industry.

“Some companies really do dig deep into their pockets to assist with awareness.

“It would be great if larger companies such as SAB came on board in the Western Cape as well.

“We look forward to seeing where they’re investing their money.”

On Monday, Social Development MEC Sharna Fernandez marked International FASD Day with site visits to places rendering services to those with substance abuse and related social challenges in the Swartland and Cederberg communities.

She said the Department of Social Development’s budget for the substance abuse programme for the 2019/2020 financial year was R109.518m.

Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry Nomalungelo Gina called on the liquor industry to enhance awareness about the dangers of consuming any alcohol while pregnant (there is no safe level). Gina launched Sobriety Campaign Week under the theme “#StaySober 9/9” in Potchefstroom, North West, on Monday.

According to FARR, about 78% of pregnancies are unplanned in South Africa, and as a result, women often don’t realise that they are pregnant and therefore continue to use alcohol, especially during the first trimester.

This foetus is particularly vulnerable during that time, as most of its organs are developing.

Cape Times