Today marks the 21st annual commemoration of International Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) Awareness Day, and Provincial Minister of Social Development Sharna Fernandez encourages everyone to show their support by observing a minute’s silence at 09h08 for affected children and their families, and ringing a bell at 09h09.
Each year on the 9th day of the 9th month at 9:09, bells are rung across the world to raise awareness about FASD, and the irreversible damage to unborn children caused by the consumption of alcohol during pregnancy.
“I encourage all pregnant women to care for their unborn children by not drinking alcohol while pregnant. No amount of alcohol is safe. We all have a responsibility to support pregnant women, and encourage them to abstain from drinking alcohol throughout their pregnancies,” says Minister Fernandez.
The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that the prevalence of FASD in the world is projected to be 1,5%. South Africa has the highest reported FASD prevalence rates in the world, with rates as high as 28% in some communities. It is estimated that our country’s overall rate is at least 6%.
According to the Foundation for Alcohol Related Research (FARR), all children with FASD have some form of permanent brain damage, presenting as developmental delays, learning and behavioural problems. This is a lifelong condition and cannot be cured.
Committed to addressing the harmful effects of FASD on children, as well as society, the Department of Social Development has allocated R2.1 million to fund organisations such as FARR, FASfacts, and Early Years Services to provide interventions to vulnerable groups. These interventions include equipping ECD practitioners with the skills to provide the appropriate support to children with FASD, to provide community-based awareness programmes and workshops for pregnant women, and positive peer support.
“It is critical that we acknowledge the harms caused by alcohol misuse, and that we support our family members, friends, and loved ones who may need help,” says Minister Fernandez.
The Department offers a basket of substance abuse services which range from early intervention, to inpatient treatment, to aftercare services. The Department of Social Development funds 36 substance abuse treatment centres, as well as community-based treatment programmes, and provides treatment programmes in all of its child and youth care centres.
Anyone in need of assistance with substance abuse interventions can contact their nearest local DSD office, or call 0800 220 250, toll free.
For more information about our other services, please refer to the Western Cape Department’s website below: