While provincial government recognises National Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) Awareness Day annually in September, the DA in the Northern Cape is calling on both the health and social sector to take FAS more seriously.
According to various research studies done within the province, the Northern Cape continues to experience the highest levels of stunted growth in the whole of South Africa.
This is due to a combination of FAS and malnutrition.
The DA has pointed out how the syndrome is seen as part of the wider problem of alcohol abuse, which carries a huge overall burden when it comes to possible disability.
DA leader Andrew Louw has called on government to consider classifying FAS as a notifiable disease.
He highlights how devastating FAS is, and how it is also wholly preventable.
“FAS means a child could suffer stunted growth and facial deformity, attention and behavioral problems, and, in some cases, mental retardation,” says Louw.
“Worst of all, it’s a diagnosis that’s never outgrown and adults with FAS will never function normally.”
According to him, what is required is for each case of FAS to be reported so that the disease can be properly monitored and its true extent established.
“Provincial government also needs to stop ignoring the fact that while generations of children have already been lost to FAS over the years, nothing has been done with the intention of empowering people living with FAS.”
He further urges the Department of Social Development to present workshops for people living with physical disability.
“No one asked to be born with FAS. Victims of FAS also deserve hope for a better life.”
He suggests that workshops should be linked to an intervention programme, as there are cases in which all the children in a household are born with FAS due to the mother’s ignorance or refusal to stop drinking during pregnancy.