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World Foetal Alcohol Syndrome Day

An estimated 25 000 babies are born with Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) every year in South Africa, the highest reported incidence in the world. FAS, a completely preventable disability, which is caused by the consumption of alcohol during pregnancy, is the main cause of severe mental disabilities and stunted physical growth in babies.

In some areas within South Africa, FAS has been reported to be as high as 12.2%. In comparison to other countries like America, where the prevalence of FAS varies from 0.1 to 0.8%, these figures, which were compiled by FASFacts, an NGO which raises awareness around Foetal Alcohol Syndrome, are the highest frequency reported in one population anywhere in the world. While the figures give some idea of the incidence of FAS in South Africa, a large number of cases are undocumented, with some experts predicting Foetal Alcohol Exposure to be between three to five times higher than the reported rate.

“Initiatives like World Foetal Alcohol Syndrome Day are vital in the fight against FAS, which is found in all races and across all socio-economic groups,” Dorothea Gertse, a social worker at the Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children said.

World Foetal Alcohol Day is held each year at nine minutes past nine on the ninth day of the ninth month (09.09am on the 09/09/2013), to draw attention to the fact that women should not drink alcohol for nine months whilst pregnant. “Being aware of FAS is not enough; drastic steps need to be taken to curb and erode this perfectly preventable disability,” Gertse says.

Rural areas in the Western Cape and towns in the Northern Cape like De Aar are the hardest hit by this disease, however FAS also affects babies born in urban areas, where prevalence amongst pregnant teens is high.

“The Centre often treats women who are pregnant but have alcohol and drug dependence. By the time they reach us for help, they are so downtrodden and desperate to escape their reality that the safety of their unborn child is not always a priority. Continuous intervention, education and counselling is required,” Gertse said. “FAS is 100% avoidable, it absolutely could be one of the major health problems permanently removed from our country’s health risk issues.”

ENDS

Distributed by Be-cause Integrated Communications:

Beverley Houston

beverley@mediaspot.co.za

021 462 1723 / 082 824 8617

 

On behalf of the Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children:

Director: Shaheema McLeod

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