Reduction of FASD

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Pogramme director
Members of the Media

Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) is caused by women who consume alcohol during pregnancy. Alcohol is harmful (teratogenic) to the developing organs of the unborn baby. The baby’s brain is especially susceptible to the damaging effects of alcohol, therefore a child with FASD will always present with brain damage. Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) is the most severe form of Foetal and Alcohol Spectrum Disorders. Children with FAS are smaller in size compared to their peers and for their age, they experience learning disabilities (due to the brain damage) and interpersonal relationship problems. This is a life-long, irreversible condition, but 100% preventable if only women can abstain from the use of alcohol during the entire pregnancy.

South Africa, and specifically the Northern Cape, has the highest reported Foetal Alcohol Specimen Disorder Prevalence Rates in the world.

In De Aar, the FASD Prevalence Rate used to be 120/1000 (12%). Due to a comprehensive FASD Prevention Programme undertaken by the Foundation for Alcohol Related Research since 2002, this rate has dropped by 30%. This is the first ever reported drop in a FASD community prevalence rate in the world.

The Foundation for Alcohol Related Research (FARR) only conducts programmes on invitation and was invited, by the Northern Cape Department of Health and the community, to assess the FASD problem in De Aar and to assist with the management thereof.

The FASD Prevention Project in De Aar commenced in 2002 with a FASD Prevalence Study amongst Grade 1 learners involving all the schools in De Aar. This provided the baseline information. It was followed by an intensive community awareness drive, whereby FARR strived to involve all possible stakeholders like the Departments of Social Development, Health, Education, etc., other NGO’s, community and church leaders and the community at large. The community awareness programme comprised an extensive media campaign; training of professionals and community members and door-to-door dissemination of information. Critical to this programme was a responsible trading campaign with licensed taverners by the Department of Social Development and partner in De Aar. FARR’s aim was to strengthen and complement the existing structures in this community and to capacitate the various role-players so as to ensure maximum impact and sustainability.

For the past 3 years the main focus has been to assist the pregnant women in this area to have healthy, substance abuse free pregnancies so as to ensure that they give birth to healthier and FAS-free babies. Coupled to this programme is a project aimed at stimulating children already diagnosed with FAS symptoms to reach their maximum potential.

This Healthy Mother Healthy Baby Programme© closely links with the Department of Health and the World Health Organization’s Saving Mothers Saving Babies Programmes and the findings can therefore easy transferable to other communities in the Province. The preliminary findings of this intervention indicate that there will be a further substantial decrease in the FASD rate in De Aar.

We extend our gratitude and wish to acknowledge the contribution made by the private sector that funded the project until 2010. Since 2010 FARR has received supplementary funding from the Department of Social Development to the tune of R 380 000 to strengthen the intervention and to align it to the needs of the community and the objectives of the Department.

This De Aar FASD Prevention Project model is now being implemented in the Western Cape Province and the World Health Organization has also shown interest in taking this model to other countries in Africa and abroad.

A Psychologist at Wits University has just completed her doctorate degree on aspects of this project and another doctorate is soon to be finished. Two more postgraduate students are in the process of completing their doctorate degrees on this project.

FARR has recently applied to the Department of Social Development for assistance to conduct a similar study and project in Galeshewe and Roodepan (Kimberley) commencing in 2012. The application has been granted. This will include a FASD Prevalence Study, bringing the Province closer to a Provincial FASD Prevalence Rate, thereby assuring that the Northern Cape will be the first province to determine its FAS prevalence rate. This is vital for all service providers, especially government departments, to plan appropriate service delivery, focussing on high-risk areas, allocation of scarce resources, training of staff and the monitoring of impact of various Substance Abuse Prevention Programmes.


Important to note is that FAS is the only disability that is 100% preventable through the responsible behaviour by mothers by abstaining from alcohol during pregnancy. There are no safe alcohol limits established so this should be strongly heeded to. It is of vital importance that men as well as communities take the responsibility in supporting mothers during pregnancy.

I thank you.

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