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The Democratic Alliance (DA) in the Northern Cape is calling on both the health and social sectors to take Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) more seriously.
While provincial government recognizes National FAS Awareness Day every year, it has done little to practically address the FAS epidemic in the Northern Cape. This is despite the fact that, according to the health department, this province has the highest levels of stunting due to a combination of FAS and malnutrition in the whole of South Africa.
In the Northern Cape, the syndrome is seen as part of the wider problem of alcohol abuse that carries a huge overall burden of disability.
FAS means a child will suffer stunted growth and facial deformities, attention and behavior problems, and, in some cases, mental retardation. Worst of all, it's a diagnosis that's never outgrown and adults with FAS will never function normally.
FAs is a devastating disease but it is also wholly preventable.
Government should consider classifying FAS as a notifiable disease. This will require each case of FAS to be reported so that the disease can be properly monitored and its true extent established.
This should further be linked to an intervention programme, as there are cases where entire broods of children are born with FAS due to the mother’s ignorance or refusal to stop drinking during pregnancy.
Provincial government also needs to stop ignoring the fact that while generations of children have already been lost to FAS over the years, nothing has been done with the intention of empowering people living with FAS.
Surely if the Department of Social Development can provide workshops for people living with physical disabilities, they can also cater for workshops specially designed for people living with FAS. At the same time, mothers and guardians of a child who suffer from FAS also need support.
No one asked to be born with FAS. Victims of FAS also deserve hope for a better life.
Only change under a DA-led government will strive to help people whose opportunities have been capped due to FAS, so that they can also move forward in life.
Issued by DA