Karen de Kock, MPL
DA Northern Cape: Provincial Spokesperson of Social Development
With Sunday, the 9th day of the ninth month, having been Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) day, in turn reminding us that as it takes nine months for a pregnancy to come to term, it is important to highlight this problem of national importance.
The Democratic Alliance believes that there is no “inclusiveness” for people with FAS. In general, our society has very little compassion for thousands of individuals whose damaged brains lead them to crime, homelessness and addiction. Instead, we assume that they have chosen to behave as they do. Few people, however, realize that the severely acting-out teenager, the addicted prostitute, the homeless beggar or the man charged with killing his girlfriend’s baby, may all behave as they do as the result of brain damage caused by their mothers’ drinking during pregnancy.
According to studies, South Africa has the highest reported incidence of FAS in the world. In fact, in high risk areas of the country, including areas in the Northern Cape, up to 12,2% (122 babies in every 1000) of babies are born with FAS. The amount of women that are drinking in any given area is said to be as high as the FAS rate (ie. 12,2% in high risk areas) multiplied by three.
While there has been a reduction of FAS cases in De Aar, which is known as one of the worst FAS affected towns in the country, the DA nonetheless remains deeply concerned as statistics remain unacceptably high.
The DA is of the view that prevention and treatment programmes could dramatically reduce the incidence of FAS. However more funding is needed for the two NGOs in the province that are predominantly concerned with addressing FAS. At the same time, we propose that the sale of alcohol be better regulated; that the province establishes an addiction centre, and that FAS be classified as disability in order to allow mothers who drink, and children with FAS, to lead a quality life.