Young pregnant woman holding her belly talking with her child. File photo.
Young pregnant woman holding her belly talking with her child. File photo.

’No amount of alcohol is safe during pregnancy,’ says Western Cape DSD on International Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder (FASD) Awareness Day

By Robin-Lee Francke Time of article published Sep 9, 2021

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Cape Town – In commemoration of International Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder (FASD) Awareness Day, the Western Cape Department of Social Development has joined hands with the Foundation of Alcohol Related Research (FARR) to spread awareness.

FARR is a non-profit organisation (NPO) dedicated to building positive futures in South African communities by significantly reducing birth defects caused by alcohol consumption during pregnancy. The focus of their major activities is on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD).

MEC of social development, Sharna Fernandez joined FARR in the inaugural bell-ringing ceremony in Cape Town just after 9am on Wednesday.

FASD is caused when an expectant mother consumes alcohol during her pregnancy.

According to FARR, alcohol consumption during pregnancy is the leading cause of preventable intellectual disability in the world.

It can lead to severe and lifelong disabilities, collectively referred to as FASD.

South Africa has been commemorating FASD Awareness Day since September 9, 1999.

Fernandez said the symbolism of the number nine is significant as a woman is ordinarily pregnant for nine months, hence the ringing of a school, church or hand bell on the 9th day of the 9th month at 9.09am as a call to action.

“To every pregnant woman out there, please avoid alcohol during your pregnancy to ensure that when it comes to your unborn child’s health – you will be giving them a healthy start to their future.

“I wish to remind all those women who are struggling to stay away from alcohol no matter how hard they try, that we are here to help,” Fernandez said.

According to research done by FARR, in South Africa, five of the nine provinces report rates of FASD as high as 282 cases out of 1 000 live births in some communities in the Northern Cape.

The Western Cape has a 25% rate of FASD cases, 250 cases out of 1 000 live births as per the FRASER-SA report.

“The total annual budget allocated towards targeted FASD interventions rendered by the Department of Social Development (DSD) and its NPO partners is R2.37 million.

“Easy-access, high-quality treatment services are essential for tackling any Substance Use Disorder (SUD) and reintegrating women back into society.

“With the support of its NPO partners, the provincial DSD provides a wide array of SUD programmes, ranging from prevention, early intervention, community-based and inpatient rehabilitation and after care services.

“All programmes funded by the DSD are registered in accordance with the Prevention of and Treatment for Substance Abuse Act, Act 70 of 2008,” Fernandez said.

A range of services are offered for women, which includes awareness, primary prevention, early intervention and after care services, and specialised services for victims of gender-based violence. Women can also be admitted with their minor children for the duration of their treatment.

Fernandez said misinformation continues to be circulated about FASD. Some think a woman must have a drinking problem to have a child with FASD.

She said no amount of alcohol is safe during pregnancy.

For more information on how to get the right help, call 0800 220 250, or visit social development offices, alternatively visit www.westerncape.gov.za/substance-abuse.

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