KwaZulu-Natal: The community of Kokstad called for the intervention of social workers to mitigate the rising number of cases of babies born with Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). This was at the commemoration of International FAS Day, where the Deputy Minister of the Department of Social Development – Mme Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu, marked the closing of the 9-9-9 Campaign.
The Campaign, which was launched by the deputy minister on 1 September 2019, aims to raise awareness about the dangers of drinking alcohol during pregnancy which includes giving birth to a baby with Foetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder (FASD).
This year, the Campaign, which took place over 9 consecutive days in 9 provinces, was kickstarted in Ladybrand – Free State on 1 September.
Among some of the speakers present at the closing dialogue were mothers who confessed to drinking during pregnancy but asked for urgent assistance from social workers and the community because they said they realised that they were putting their unborn babies at risk of being born with Foetal Alcohol Syndrome by drinking.
One such attendee was 32-year-old Yandisa Basi from Bhongweni. “I drink because I am extremely stressed. I fell pregnant by error, and the father of my unborn baby has blocked me from communicating with him. He said he wanted nothing to do with me or the baby. I tried to terminate the baby, but I was already three months and one day pregnant, so the health professional refused. I need all the help from social workers that I can get because I often drink just so I can sleep my problems away,” she said.
“There are no social support groups for pregnant women in this area, and we are desperate for them. Through the assistance of social workers and professionally support groups, I am sure a lot of us pregnant women will learn about the dangers of drinking or taking substances during pregnancy. Social workers can also help us with accessing grants and other Social Development services because when we are stressed about issues such as not being able to look after our families, pay for bills and take general care of ourselves, we often turn to alcohol to numb the pain of feeling hopeless,” said Basi.
Deputy Minister was joined by Dr Guru Kistnasamy from the Central Drug Authority (CDA), which is a Social Development arm mandated to oversee, monitor and evaluate the implementation of the National Drug Master Plan (NDMP 2019 – 2024).
“Research indicates that at least three million of our population is affected by FASD. Out of 187 countries, South Africa has the highest prevalence rate of the disorder,” said Dr Kisnasamy, adding that the 9-9-9 advocacy campaign should be extended to schools, tertiary institutions, health facilities and places where alcohol is sold.
In her closing remarks, the Deputy Minister said that the training of social workers and the South African Police Service (SAPS) officials on FASD commenced in Amajuba (Newcastle), where she is the District Champion, and would continue throughout the country. The training took place in August 2022. “Social workers and the SAPS play a critical role in curbing FASD in society. They need to be educated about the disorder in order to mitigate against it by teaching families and communities and holding those who are responsible for perpetuating the condition to account,” she said.