Minister Botha: Alcohol Abuse is Absorbing Government's Poverty-Fighting Money
The prevention and treatment of substance abuse is a pressing matter for Western Cape government, with research revealing that one out of ten children in the most affected rural areas in the Western Cape suffer from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), and that the syndrome was confirmed as the primary diagnosis in 10 - 25% of children in the school-going age group.
Addressing 500 learners at a FAS Awareness event at Kleinplasie, Worcester today, Western Cape Minister of Health, Theuns Botha, outlined the seriousness of alcohol misuse in the province, as well as the blueprint for its comprehensive strategy.
Botha said that FAS is the effect of the larger fabric of society problem. "The tragedy is that in the Western Cape we are normally proud to be forerunners, but today I am ashamed to say that the province, and more specifically the Winelands area, is forerunners when it comes to the appearance of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome."
Describing FAS as a retardation caused by alcohol, Botha said that the domino-effect of the syndrome on the economy of the region, the province and the country is mind-boggling. "If 10 - 25% of learners suffer from growth retardation, it means that percentage of our society is unable to develop into effective income earners."
Botha said that the women included in the research, acknowledged that they were aware that the alcohol could detrimentally affect their baby, but they did not care. "It is clear that this state of depression is rooted in poverty and extremely difficult living conditions. This is where government's role comes into play."
Earlier this year the cabinet of the Western Cape provincial government adopted a blueprint for a comprehensive strategy for the prevention and treatment of substance abuse.
"We consider the roll-out of this strategy as so important, that it is driven by the Premier as a special project, because the success of the project relies on the close coordination between all provincial departments. It is also due to the strategic importance of addressing drug and alcohol abuse in relation to our overall objectives of increasing job creation and investment in the Western Cape," said Botha.
He said that as long as drug- and alcohol abuse is the order of the day, government is unable to create employment and investment opportunities, which will benefit the residents of the Western Cape.
Botha pointed to a research study conducted by the University of Cape Town that shows that the burden of disease associated with alcohol related road accidents alone is in the region of R4 billion per annum in the Western Cape. "We should be using this money to address poverty and poor living conditions."
Western Cape government is doing the following:
- The Department of Social Development is funding the Ke Moja drug awareness programme in 250 schools to make learners aware of alcohol and drug related harms.
- The Department of Health's Public Health unit is about to launch "Booza TV", a television series to inform the public about the risks of excessive alcohol use. It will either appear on ETV or SABC, and will be available for schools, and for airing on public screens in high risk communities.
- The province is about to pass the new Liquor Act, which will bring much tighter regulation to liquor sales, and will include a drive to curb excessive drinking and all its associated risks.
- The Departments of Health, Cultural Affairs and Sport and Agriculture are working on a programme for rural areas to reduce harmful alcohol use, starting with a pilot project in the Hex River Valley.
- Government and government-funded alcohol and drug treatment and similar intervention services are being increased to reach up to 5000 people per year across the Province.
- The Department of Social Development's 16 district offices are being replaced with 49 local offices, to be aligned with school circuits, which will help support schools with learners who have behavioural problems or engaging in risky behaviour. This is part of our province's big drive to intervene early and help learners stay in school and avoid falling into alcohol or drug abuse.
Western Cape Minister of Health