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‘Change SA’s drinking culture’

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‘As government, we are sending out a strong message to the liquor industry, liquor manufacturers, distributors and retailers to take responsibility for their products and drive programmes that will change the drinking culture in our country’

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THE DEPARTMENT of Trade and Industry (dti) has urged the liquor industry to take responsibility and drive programmes that will change South Africa’s drinking culture.

“As government, we are sending out a strong message to the liquor industry, liquor manufacturers, distributors and retailers to take responsibility for their products and drive programmes that will change the drinking culture in our country,” the department’s chief director of the National Liquor Authority (NLA), Prea Ramdhuny, said in the Northern Cape recently.

Ramdhuny was speaking at the department’s event to observe Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Day in Kuruman in the Northern Cape on Friday.

Research has shown that the Northern Cape has a high prevalence of Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS).

Ramdhuny stressed that government, civil society and corporates had a responsibility to collectively eradicate the scourge of alcohol abuse.

FASD is a group of conditions that occur in an individual whose mother consumed alcohol during pregnancy, with FAS being the most severe form of the condition.

Problems in children with FAS may include an abnormal appearance, short height, low body weight, small head size, poor co-ordination, behavioural problems and problems with hearing and sight.

Ramdhuny urged society to invest in and protect children from alcohol abuse by intensifying awareness about the harmful effects of alcohol abuse during pregnancy.

FASD Awareness Day is marked around the world annually on September 9.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the annual liquor consumption by South Africa amounts to 7.81 litres of pure alcohol per person and the rate of consumption ranks South Africa 52nd on a list of 191 countries.

“The South African government is concerned that South Africa is estimated to have alcohol consumption at a score of 4, which is riskier in a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being least risky and 5 being riskiest. It is against this backdrop that we deem it significant to intensify education and awareness around alcohol and liquor abuse and drinking while pregnant.

“Partnerships between government and communities are vital to decrease alcohol intake in South Africa,” said Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies.

Meanwhile during community engagements recently in Keimoes, the Deputy Minister of Social Development, Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu, said women who consume alcohol during pregnancy should be arrested.

During community dialogues of the 9-9-9 Campaign Against Foetal Alcohol Syndrome Bogopane-Zulu said consuming alcohol during pregnancy was robbing babies of their future and robbing our communities of even more.

“Drinking during pregnancy should be a criminal offence. Women who drink during pregnancy should be locked up,” Bogopane-Zulu told the community of Keimoes.

An elderly woman, who has two grandchildren born with FAS, shared her day-to-day trauma.

“My daughter gave birth to twins some years ago. They both have the condition but one is worse than the other. It is enough that they both have FAS but to now also have one struggling more than the other makes it unbearable at school and at home. My daughter still continues to drink. I do not think she realises the damage she has caused. I urge the community to help women to stop drinking, especially during pregnancy,” she pleaded.

Bogopane-Zulu, responding to a number of problems that were raised by the community, added that there were other DSD programmes that should work hand-in-hand with the 9-9-9 Campaign in order for the campaign’s goals to be achieved.

“Behavioural change is not a short-term initiative. We cannot sit here and say we need women to stop drinking during pregnancy and expect results tomorrow. It does not work like that. We need to engage constantly and make use of available programmes to ensure long-term results,” she said.