DSD commemorates International Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder Awareness Day | Western Cape Government

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DSD commemorates International Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder Awareness Day

9 September 2021

Today, Thursday 9 September 2021, the Western Cape Minister of Social Development, Sharna Fernandez, commemorated International Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder (FASD) Awareness Day by joining hands with the Foundation of Alcohol Related Research (FARR), in the inaugural bell-ringing ceremony at 09:09 in Cape Town, to spread awareness about Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) and the associated damage caused to unborn babies  from alcohol consumption during pregnancy.

FARR is a Non-Profit Organisation (NPO) that  is 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).

FASD is caused when a pregnant woman consumes alcohol during pregnancy. FARR notes that 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. 

The first International FASD Awareness Day was held on 9 September 1999 and continues to be annually commemorated in South Africa. The symbolism of the number 9 is significant, as a woman is ordinarily pregnant for nine months; hence the ringing of a school, church or handbell on the 9th day of the 9th month at 09:09, 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,” said the Western Cape Minister of Social Development, Sharna Fernandez.

In South Africa, research completed by (FARR) in five of the nine provinces reports rates as high as 282/1000 live births in some communities in the Northern Cape Province.  

The Western Cape Province has rates as high as 250/1000 live births (25%) (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 aftercare 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.

Services offered by the DSD and its NPO partners for women include, amongst others:

  • Awareness, primary prevention, early intervention, aftercare services;

  • Specialized services for victims of gender-based violence. Female service users can also be admitted with their minor children for the duration of their treatment. 

  • Specialized treatment for youth between 13 and 17 years of age, at funded inpatient treatment centres; 

  • Residential or Inpatient Treatment centres and non-residential outpatient (also known as community-based) treatment centres for women;

  • Reintegration and aftercare support;

  • School-based programs at identified high-risk schools aimed at early detection and appropriate interventions for young females involved in substance abuse.

“There continues to be misinformation being circulated about FASD. Some individuals are under the impression that a woman must have a drinking problem to have a child with FASD. 

Join us in sharing the prevention message noted by FARR, that no amount of alcohol is safe during pregnancy,” concluded Minister Fernandez.

If you or someone you care about has a substance use disorder (SUD) or feel that you can’t cope with the symptoms of substance abuse in your home or place of work, getting help is the first step.

The treatment of a SUD is a process, and ongoing support is provided throughout the programme.

For more information on how to get the right help, call 0800 220 250, or visit our local offices at the Department of Social Development or visit www.westerncape.gov.za/substance-abuse.

Media Enquiries: 

Joshua Covenant Chigome

Spokesperson for the Minister of Social Development, Minister Sharna Fernandez

Tel: 021 483 9217

Cell: 083 661 4949

Email: Joshua.chigome@westerncape.gov.za­