In commemorating International Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Day, the Western Cape Minister of Social Development rang the bells of awareness at the Khayelitsha Community Health Centre with provincial Health Minister, Nomafrench Mbombo.
The Department of Social Development is proud to be at the forefront of delivering and supporting initiatives tackling the problem in the province.
FASD refers to the disorders that develop in an unborn baby if the mother consumes alcohol during the pregnancy. The alcohol consumed is absorbed into the blood stream, and is poisonous to the foetus, affecting its organs. Babies are usually born with physical and mental disabilities, which severely affect their life chances.
The prevalence of FAS in the province threatens our government’s commitment to improving education outcomes and the health of citizens in the province.
According to research conducted by our DSD funded NGO partner the Foundation for Alcohol Related Research (FARR), South Africa has the highest incidences of FASD in the world. 6 million people in South Africa are irrevocably affected by having been exposed to alcohol in the womb. The Western Cape is particularly affected by the most serious form of FASD, namely Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). We need to tackle this problem if we wish to break the cycle of poverty in many of our communities.
Key to our efforts in tackling the scourge is adopting a whole-of-society approach, which involves building partnerships with the private sector, NGOs, and individuals in our communities.
Our efforts include a multi-pronged approach to addressing the challenge, involving the Provincial Departments of Social Development, Health, Education, and a number of NGOs.
The provincial department of Social Development partners with, and funds, 8 NGOs such as Foundation for Alcohol Related Research(FARR), Fas Facts, and Early Years to help reduce and prevent the harm caused by FAS. Just over R5.5-million is allocated to these 8 NGOs, which are currently assisting 3853 families with therapy, counselling and developmental services..
Each of these NGOs assists the department in various ways;
- The FARR conducts prevalence studies on FASD and implements a Healthy Mother Healthy Baby program on the West Coast and Beaufort West. This identifies high risk pregnant women before 20 weeks of pregnancy to assess health status, and evaluates babies born to these mothers at 9 months of age for FASD and other health problems.
- Early Years provides training and substance abuse awareness to ECD Practitioners, home based carers, and parents on how to handle children with FASD in ECD centres.
- FAS FACTS conducts the Baby on Board program in the Cape Winelands and surrounding areas. Their services include training to communities on identification of FASD and support services to individuals and families.
In addition, the provincial department of Education has embarked on a comprehensive training programme to help teachers identify special education needs, including children suffering from foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). Learners with FAS may receive support from their class teacher or a Learning Support Teacher in a mainstream school or full-service, inclusive school. The department may also refer learners needing high levels of support to an appropriate Special School.
This is just some of the many initiatives and programmes being offered by DSD in partnership with other provincial departments, NGOs, and individuals.
However the success of our interventions depends on communities and individuals working with us. Most importantly, we call on pregnant women to take responsibility for their unborn babies and to not drink alcohol. We will only be able to tackle FASD properly, if we continue to work “Better Together”.