Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Day takes sobering look at destructing facts

2015-09-09 06:00
The white FASD knot symbolises the umbilical cord. The knot is worn in support of the FASD prevention message of “No amount of alcohol is safe during pregnancy”.

The white FASD knot symbolises the umbilical cord. The knot is worn in support of the FASD prevention message of “No amount of alcohol is safe during pregnancy”. Photo:SUPPLIED

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THERE’S a condition that doesn’t discriminate against race, faith, politics, status or designation, nor does it hint towards the existence of a cure. It seems there’s only one thing it firmly stands by – the fact that it is 100% preventable.

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) can be the lifelong, incurable burden of a child born from any mother as a result of the use – not necessarily abuse – of alcohol during pregnancy.

To raise awareness about FASD and fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), the most severe of these disorders, September 9 was declared International FASD day in 1999 and has since been commemorated around the globe.

“There are still many myths around FASD. Some people still believe, for instance, that a woman must be an alcoholic to give birth to a child with FASD. The truth is, however, that no amount of alcohol is safe during pregnancy,” said FARR chief executive Leana Olivier.

FAS is a mental disability – the most severe of the fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. In this case the damage to the unborn child is permanent and cannot be reversed, Olivier explained.

“A child with FAS can suffer from various defects, apart from intellectual deficits. Apart from damage to the eyes, ears and heart, this may also include brain damage, which results in lifelong problems such as learning disabilities, interpersonal relationship problems, developmental disabilities such as fine motor development, coordination, arithmetic and cause and effect reasoning. In addition, most of these children have attention and hyperactivity problems,” she said.

FARR has completed nine studies in four provinces recording the highest reported FAS rates in the world. In some areas the FAS prevalence rate is as high as 18%. The Department of Health estimates the average FAS prevalence in South Africa at 6%.

“Compared to the next highest rate in the world, namely 1% in the USA, this rate is alarmingly high. An estimated 3 million South African children are born with FAS every year,” said FARR founder Prof. Denis Viljoen.

Currently FARR runs research, awareness and prevention projects in the West Coast, Wolseley, Port Elizabeth, De Aar, Upington and the Renosterberg area. As part of these projects community members, health professionals, social workers and educators are trained to raise awareness about and assist in the prevention of FASD in their communities.

“A child born with FAS has an intellectual disability, learning and psycho-social challenges for the rest of its life. This epidemic is 100% preventable,” said Viljoen

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