DSD FARR study

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Statement by the Premier of the Northern Cape, Ms Sylvia Lucas on Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders prevalence study conducted in Roodepan and Galeshewe

Studies conducted by the Foundation for Alcohol Research in De Aar and Upington farming areas indicated a high Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder prevalence in the two areas. The statistics of these studies indicate a high number of alcohol abuse and was utilized as an indicator for substance abuse rates in the Province.  The scientific, Healthy Mother, Healthy Baby concept implemented by Foundation for ARR in De Aar has resulted in a 30% decrease in the prevalence of Foetal Alcohol Syndrome. 

On 8 February 2012 the Northern Cape Executive Cabinet approved the Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Research awareness and prevention project in Kimberley.  The then Premier, Ms. H. Jenkins, launched the study at a media conference on the same day and announced that the Foundation for Alcohol Related Research (FARR) will conduct the study for three (3) years in the two biggest residential areas namely Galeshewe and Roodepan. The Department of Social Development funded the Foundation for Alcohol Related Research to conduct a Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder prevalence study amongst Grade 1 learners in fourteen schools in Galeshewe and Roodepan in Kimberley in order to get an indication of the magnitude of the Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder in an urban area in the Northern Cape.

In collaboration with the parents and the Department of Education a sample of learners were recruited at fourteen schools in these residential areas.  As part of the studies the learners received medical examinations by Professor Dennis Viljoen (Medical Specialist from FARR) and treatment for a variety of problems that were detected.  These problems included upper respiratory tract infections, various skin conditions and rashes, eye and ear problems, oral health problems, social problems, as well as learning and developmental delays.  Learners were referred to the clinics, hospital, social workers and schools psychologist for these problems.

The study revealed an overall Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Prevalence Rate of 6,09% in the two areas combined.  This means that 60 per 1000 of the children have FASD and by implication permanent, irreversible brain damage due to alchohol damage during pregnancy.  In some areas within Galeshewe the prevalence rate was as high as 11%.

The Kimberley rate is alarmingly high given the fact that the FASD Prevalence Rate reported in a previous study done in a city (Johannesburg, FARR 2002) WAS 2,7%.  The belief that FASD is a problem in rural communities only is hereby challenged.  South Africa has the highest reported rates of FASD in the world.  The rate in the USA (1-3%) is the closest to the South African rates. Information obtained in the study furthermore indicates that 83% of the mothers of the children with FASD were still drinking at the time of the study; the drink of choice during pregnancy was commercial beer and then wine.  Of great concern is that 23% of the mothers were already dead by the time their children were in Grade One.

Towards the end of 2012 FARR started with FASD Awareness, Training and Prevention Programmes in Galeshewe and Roodepan.  These programmes were funded by Discovery and Distell Foundations and included FARR’s Health Mother Healthy Baby Programmes which provides support to pregnant women to have healthier pregnancies and healthier babies.  With the support of the Department of Health, pregnant women attending antenatal clinics, in the highest risk areas, were invited to register for the programmes.  Some of the women already gave birth and their babies were examined by Professor Viljoen who detected a marked decrease in the birth of children with FASD.

As part of the follow-up of the research, counselling was provided to all the mothers of the children with Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, 98 trained Educators and School Psychologist in the management of these learners in the classroom.  18 Dieticians, 14 Occupational-, Speech and Physiotherapists, 63 Nurses and 74 Social Workers were also trained by FARR to enable them to continue with Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Awareness and Prevention work in Kimberley after the end of the project.

Since 2012 FARR has involved thousands of community members in Kimberley in Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Awareness Programmes such as theatre shows, awareness walks, talks at clinics and presentations to inform people about the dangers of alcohol use during pregnancy.  The key message remains:  If you are of childbearing age, sexually active, using alcohol and are not on a contraceptive method, you are at risk of having a child with Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder! No alcohol is safe during pregnancy.

The Department of Social Development simultaneously implemented Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Awareness and Education Programmes on Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.

These programmes are implemented at clinics, in communities during group sessions and as part of the “Ke Moja, No Thanks I’m Fine Without Drugs” school based programmes.

The programmes have been implemented across the Province and intensified in the areas where the research has been conducted as well as in Upington, where the department planned to roll out the Healthy Mother, Healthy Baby Programme.

There has been a sharp increase in the number of awareness and education programmes implemented by the Department the targeted numbers increased drastically. A total number of 8541 women of the 650 targeted were reached through education programmes on the risks of substance abuse during pregnancy for the 2013/14 financial year.  The target of two (2) information sessions on Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder was exceeded by far in that the number reached was 298.

There has been a sharp increase in the number of awareness and education programmes as the targeted numbers increased drastically. 

A plan of action on the findings will be implemented through a collaborative approach including all relevant stakeholders.

The following are the interventions to be intensified and implemented of which the Department of Social Development will take the lead.

  • Based on the magnitude of the prevalence of Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder in the two (2) areas the Department will intensify awareness programmes which will include education of communities, including legal alcohol traders.
  • Programmes will be implemented targeting women of child bearing age and women abusing substances.
  • Refer children that are affected, but experience other physical, physiological or social problems for appropriate interventions.
  • Implement the Healthy Mother Healthy Baby Programmes.
  • Implementation of an intervention planning targeting at risk pregnant women or pregnant women with a substance abuse problem. The scientific, Healthy Mother, Healthy Baby Programme implemented by FARR in De Aar has resulted in a 30% decrease in the prevalence of Foetal Alcohol Syndrome in De Aar.
  • Interventions to ensure that children affected by Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder get the necessary stimulation to develop optimally,
  • Interventions to ensure that children not affected by Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder but who experience other physical, psychological or social problems get the appropriate interventions,
  • Interventions will be implemented in an integrated manner.
  • The Healthy Mother Healthy Baby Programme will be rolled to Upington due to the high incidence with regard to Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, after research was conducted by FARR.
  • A total amount of R1.3 million has been set aside for implementation of the Healthy Mother Healthy Baby Programme that will be implemented in the various areas.


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