City targets mothers’ heavy drinking

2015-09-15 06:00
Officers with confiscated liquor during a joint operation between law enforcement and police.

CITY of cape town

Officers with confiscated liquor during a joint operation between law enforcement and police. PHOTO: CITY of cape town

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Authorities are taking alcohol abuse awareness to the streets with a different approach.

As the world marked Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Day on Wednesday last week the City of Cape Town expanded its arsenal in tackling alcohol abuse to some hard-hitting methods. Efforts to drive home the dangers of alcohol abuse, in particular during pregnancy and leading to foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), were intensified.

The City’s social development and early childhood development directorate hosts regular workshops and awareness sessions.

The directorate has also launched a pilot project in which primary school pupils were exposed to the behaviour of a simulated baby with foetal alcohol syndrome so that they could understand the impact that alcohol has on children whose mothers drink heavily during pregnancy. Plans are already under way to expand the school programme.

“By aiming these prevention programmes at a young audience, we are empowering children to make better decisions for their own benefit, but also influence their peers and others in their communities,” says Suzette Little, mayoral committee member for social development and early childhood development.

“Education and awareness and changing perceptions are often more valuable to making a real social change than throwing money at problems. We need more agents of change in our communities to highlight the dangers of poor choices so we can reduce the number of children whose prospects are diminished by the actions of their mothers.”

Socially acceptableJP Smith, mayoral committee member for safety and security, says one challenge in tackling FAS is the perception that alcohol abuse in general is socially acceptable.

Officers closed 57 shebeens between July last year and June this year for trading illegally. This resulted in 7392F alcohol being confiscated from these establishments.

Siyabulela Mamkeli, mayoral committee member for health, agrees: “We see further proof of the attitudes towards alcohol consumption in the statistics at the City’s substance abuse treatment centres.

“In the 2013/14 financial year only 13% of all our clients sought help for alcohol abuse. This is astounding, given what we know about alcohol’s devastating effects. It is of grave concern, not only because of the lives lost and the growing health burden from alcohol-related illnesses and traumas, but also the social burden and deficit that children born with FAS are left with.”

The City of Cape Town’s six substance abuse treatment sites are based in Tafelsig, Khayelitsha, Milnerton, Parkwood, Delft South and Manenberg.

The City also has a 24-hour substance abuse helpline on 0800 435 748.

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