International Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Day | Western Cape Government

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International Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Day

9 September 2022

Western Cape Ministers Dr Nomafrench Mbombo and Sharna Fernandez partnered with the Foundation of Alcohol Related Research (FARR) to commemorate International Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Day this morning, Friday 9 September.

Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) is caused when alcohol is consumed during pregnancy. The effects are permanent. Prenatal alcohol use may damage any of the unborn baby’s organs, with the brain being the most vulnerable organ. For this reason, all children with FASD have some form of permanent brain damage, presenting as developmental delays, learning and behavioural problems.

In prioritizing the wellbeing, safety, and healthy development of children, their families and communities, the Departments of Social Development and Health support the message that no amount of alcohol is safe during pregnancy.

Western Cape Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr Mbombo says, “FASD is a life-long condition, and any amount of alcohol can cause harm to an unborn baby, the effect of which is seen too many times in our facilities. The problems caused by FASD vary from child to child, and are not reversible. We call on pregnant women to abstain from alcohol use during pregnancy, and also upon family members, friends and partners to encourage the message of abstinence during pregnancy. Its nine months of not drinking alcohol to spare a child, and the child’s family, a life time of effects.”

Addressing the social determinants of health calls for a Whole of Society and a Whole of Government approach. It is vital that everyone, including fathers, extended family members, and communities, assist in addressing FASD by sharing vital information about how to prevent it in the first instance, and to offer care and support to people and children with FASD.

To this end, the Department of Social Development funds organisations which offer awareness and prevention programmes in high-risk communities and which equip Early Childhood Development practitioners with the skills to provide the appropriate intervention and support when children present with FASD.

“We must remove the stigma, so that children and people with FASD can receive the right care and support. I would also like to reiterate that FASD is preventable. DSD will continue to support communities with prevention and early intervention programmes, which includes men and fathers, and the role they can play in preventing FASD,” said Western Cape Minister of Social Development, Sharna Fernandez.

Dr Leana Olivier, the FARR Chief Executive Officer says the commemoration of International FASD Day is of special importance in South Africa as our country has, by far the highest reported FASD rates, in the world. 

According to the World Health Organisation the prevalence of FASD globally is projected to be 1,5%. In South Africa, research done by the Foundation for Alcohol Related Research (FARR) in 5 of the 9 provinces, revealed rates as high as 282 per 1000 live births in some communities in the Northern Cape.  The Western Cape has areas with rates as high as 310 per 1000 live births (31,1%) (FASER-SA report).

“Given the scale of FASD in South Africa, and the effects it has on the lives of individuals, families, and our country, we need to take collective action to raise awareness to prevent it.  We therefore call on all residents to share the message that ‘no alcohol is safe during pregnancy’, not only on International FASD Day, but every day. We must also continue to inform and support pregnant women in our immediate circle of friends and family not to use alcohol during pregnancy,” said Dr Olivier.