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MEC raises awareness about foetal alcohol syndrome

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The MEC for Social Development, Nontobeko Vilakazi, hosted a group of 20 pregnant women and educated them about the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle during pregnancy.

Picture: Supplied

THE NORTHERN Cape MEC for Social Development, Nontobeko Vilakazi, highlighted the dangers of consuming alcohol during pregnancy when she hosted an International Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) Day event on Wednesday at the Kalahari Lodge in Kimberley.

Vilakazi hosted a group of 20 pregnant women and educated them about the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle during pregnancy.

She said foetal alcohol syndrome is one of the challenges the department is trying to eradicate in the Province.

“Foetal alcohol syndrome prevalence studies conducted by the Foundation for Alcohol Related Research (FARR) have found that compared to the world-wide prevalence of 1.5%, studies in different communities in the Northern Cape have found up to a 28% prevalence rate,” said Vilakazi.

“This is further intensified by the poor nutritional status of mothers during pregnancy. The damage of a baby born with FAS is irreversible. The damage is permanent and it can unfortunately not be cured. However, FAS is 100% preventable by simply not drinking during pregnancy.”

Vilakazi said the aim of the event was also to give pregnant women a moment to reflect on the life-changing decision they may face when they consider consuming alcohol during their pregnancy.

“Some of the findings which came out of the studies conducted by FARR, and the main reasons cited by women who consumed alcohol during pregnancy, were ignorance of the effects of alcohol on the unborn child. It was also found that some women were not aware that they were pregnant and thus continued drinking alcohol.

“Another problem was alcohol abuse as well as women receiving confusing messages relating to safe amounts of alcohol, though no safe amount of alcohol has been scientifically established. Some women even turn to consuming alcohol in an attempt to forget their problems,” the MEC said.

She gave each mother a baby bath filled with baby essentials.

Vilakazi also unveiled a FAS billboard in the central business district (CBD) to create more awareness on the matter.

The MEC added that the department has measures in place to assist those parents and children who are living with the syndrome.

“As a department we provide psycho-social support to parents who have children born with FAS. This is intended to help the parents cope with the challenges as such children may have developed problems with learning. This can be very challenging for parents, therefore the department provides parental training skills in order for parents to deal with those challenges.

“Once a child is of the age of 16, the department ensures the child gets a disability grant, depending on the severity of their disability. The parent or guardian who looks after the child also gets a grant. That is if the child requires full-time parental guidance or foster care,” she said.