Fetal alcohol syndrome: minister launches drive
Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) is fully preventable, yet it continues to be a serious health issue in the Western Cape due to so many women consuming alcohol during their pregnancy.
For this reason, Western Cape health minister Dr Nomafrench Mbombo launched a Fetal Alcohol Syndrome drive on Sunday 9 September – which also marked international FASD day – to create awareness among expectant mothers to avoid the use of alcohol during pregnancy, the crucial message to the community being that the impact of FASD on children is irreversible and that drinking while pregnant is a massive injustice to an unborn child.
The severe impact of alcohol to an unborn child cannot be stressed enough, the minister said. The communities most affected in the province are often impoverished, poorly educated and socially deprived, and the syndrome is seen as part of the wider problem of alcohol abuse that carries a huge overall burden of disability.
Mbombo, who emphasised that raising awareness through public campaigns is the first and very important step towards prevention, visited homes of expectant mothers in Conville, George to highlight the importance of avoiding alcohol during pregnancy.
Alcohol abuse results in dysfunctional families and contributes to the breakdown in family units, the rise in gang-related activities, the negative impact on community safety, and overall decline in social cohesion.
“Evidence shows that young people experiment with alcohol before any other substance. One can easily see this trend based on the number of young people who drink before the legal age in our communities.
Very often teenagers including adults of legal drinking age fall pregnant without knowing and continue to consume alcohol,” Mbombo said.
A young mother from Concordia, Bukelwa Masango, who gave birth to a child with the syndrome three years ago, said she wishes she was exposed to the information when she was pregnant with her daughter.
“I hope expectant mothers can make the conscious decision to choose their children and protect them no matter what the circumstances because once they have the syndrome there is no turning back,” she said. –