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Foetal alcohol study conducted in NC town

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Study by Foundation for Alcohol Related Research paves way for community intervention and support

Foetal Alcohol Syndrome can be prevented through educating communities. Picture: Pixabay

THE FOUNDATION for Alcohol Related Research (FARR) has recently completed an in-depth study and community survey in Britstown, which is expected to pave the way for community intervention and support.

FARR recently set up an office in Britstown, a small farming community in the Northern Cape.

According to a statement issued on Monday by De Aar Solar Power, which funded the expansion of FARR into Britstown, the study has shown that knowledge needs to be instilled within community members to decrease alcohol usage stigma if the affected community members are going to get the support required. The study has also indicated the need for further health referrals, maternity interviews, neurodevelopmental assessments and generally additional community engagement.

De Aar Solar Power stated further that it was amazed that so much had already been successfully achieved, despite the severe pressure that called for creative thinking to continue to deliver on the programme’s objectives given the Covid-19 restrictions. 

“It will probably get even more challenging, however, we believe that we will reach our targets as this is a project that is addressing the needs of the community and it enjoys the support of the relevant stakeholders,”  Leana Olivier, CEO of FARR, said.

The community survey, conducted earlier in the year, included a study to confirm the prevalence of foetal alcohol syndrome and related diseases, a Healthy Mother Healthy Baby programme, as well as anthropometric screening and medical examination.

“One of the key training sessions, which included both intense theoretical and practical training, had to be converted to distance education training, which was a massive undertaking as we had to video record the theoretical input, compile workbooks for the staff and do video recordings of interviews, due to the national lockdown period,” explained Olivier, demonstrating one of the ways in which adaptation has been required.

“We are very pleased that this vital work hasn’t been halted during the pandemic, as FAS (foetal alcohol syndrome) is a crippling, yet preventable form of mental illness, with a significant percentage coming from the communities in and around De Aar, and we suspect Britstown may be equally impacted,” explained Harrisinah Theka, economic development officer at De Aar Solar Power.

FARR set up local offices in Britstown so that it can service the community properly, by providing community support, especially to expectant mothers and young children.

FARR is a leading NGO source of research and information on foetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) and the most severe form of this disorder, namely foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), in South Africa. The organisation is dedicated to building positive futures in South African communities by significantly reducing birth defects and mental disabilities caused by alcohol consumption during pregnancy.

“We have previously supported FARR in the community of De Aar and are now helping the NGO expand its work into new communities,” Theka stated.

FARR has become a hub for experts, community workers and everyday South Africans who are determined to improve the lives of those affected by FAS, their families and caregivers. They are involved in training, education, research, prevention, support and management projects across South Africa. 

“We believe that FARR has an important role to play in rural communities across our country, such as the small town of Britstown in the heart of the Central Karoo,” concluded Harrisinah.