International Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Day
The prevalence of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome amongst children in the Western Cape - 75 out of every 1 000 - is 50 times higher than in other developing countries, says Provincial Health Minister, Pierre Uys. He was speaking at an event organised by the Department of Health to commemorate International Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Day.
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) is a group of birth defects caused by drinking alcohol during pregnancy. Uys says simply refraining from taking in any alcohol while pregnant can help prevent FAS. "Don't drink alcohol if you are planning to have a baby or if there is a possibility that you may fall pregnant and especially don't drink when you are pregnant. We cannot afford to handicap our children even before they have a chance to live."
According to Uys all forms of alcohol can cause birth defects in babies. "Alcohol goes into the blood stream which carries it to the unborn baby. It can harm the fetus even before you know you are pregnant and will continue to harm the baby until birth". He called on family members, friends and society in general to help warn pregnant women of the dangers involved and to support them in making the right choice by refusing to drink any alcohol in this period.
"My Department is aware of the extent of the challenge we face and our Women's Health Sub-directorate have a number of programmes focussed on educating the community at large about FAS. In it we also highlight the enormous strain that it places on families once their baby is born with a defect. The majority of families affected by FAS are poor and can ill afford to care for children with FAS", adds Uys.
"To celebrate International Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Day my Department in conjunction with the takeAWAY theatre company wrote and produced a short play wherein three pregnant women are confronted with FAS and the dangers it holds for their unborn babies. The message of this self-produced play "booze and babies just don't go" clearly struck a cord with the audiences in and around Cape Town where the sketch was presented".
Contact: Pierre Uys 082 455 5144
Media liaison: Herman van der Westhuizen 082 772 9161