Deputy Minister of Social Development, Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu is calling on the tightening of laws to enable law enforcement agents across South Africa to arrest women who consume alcohol while pregnant, which has devastating consequences for children.
South Africa has marked the fifth leg of the nine-day-long 9-9-9 campaign against Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).
The national Department of Social Department (DSD) said the 9-9-9 stands for nine consecutive days, in nine provinces of South Africa, leading up to the 9th day of September, which is International Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Day.
FASD is a leading source of non-genetic developmental and intellectual disability globally and is usually associated with primary and secondary disabilities.
South Africa has been identified by the World Health Organization (WHO) to have the highest reported prevalence of FASD in the world.
Bogopane-Zulu made the remarks while handing over a stimulation room in Esidumbini community care centre in Ndwendwe, KwaZulu-Natal.
The stimulation room will be used to assist with stimulating children with FASD and other minors with other disabilities by using various equipment to improve movement, as well as brain function.
The department said the handing over of a stimulation room is in line with the theme for FASD month this year: “Uniting our strengths - finding solutions together”.
During the hand-over, Bogopane-Zulu said laws should be sharpened in South Africa for women who drink while pregnant, resulting in children with FASD.
“Women who drink alcohol while they are pregnant must be charged for child abuse. The sad thing is that these women have these children with FASD and then they leave them with the elderly to take care of them,” said the deputy minister.
She appealed to pregnant women across South Africa to prioritise having healthy children and to avoid drinking alcohol during pregnancy.
“South Africans have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol, where binge drinking has become the norm among youngsters," she said.
Bogopane-Zulu also warned that there is a plethora of health problems for young people who indulge in “heavy drinking”.
In continuing with her effort to raise awareness on the dangers of drinking alcohol while pregnant or breastfeeding, Bogopane-Zulu is today visiting Ikhwezi Lokusa rehabilitation centre in Mthatha, Eastern Cape.
“The visit comes after (investigation television show) Carte Blanche exposed the conditions and maltreatment of children with disabilities at the Ikhwezi Lokusa Special School,” said spokesperson for the Department of Social Development, Lumka Oliphant.
“The deputy minister will be joined by MEC of Social Development in the Eastern Cape, Ms Bukiwe Fanta during the visit. The training centre is for young adults with physical and mild mental disabilities,” she said.
The facility is meant to empower young people with entrepreneurial knowledge, resulting in them having access to economic opportunities.