FAS rate ‘on the rise in Crossroads’

Health MEC Nomafrench Mbombo, middle, appealed to men to support their pregnant partners.

Social workers at the Crossroads Community Day Centre believe that Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) and other alcohol-related cases are on the increase in the area.

They say 80 percent of cases they see at the day centre are alcohol-related and includes child abuse, domestic violence, divorce and other family issues.

Speaking to Vukani during an event to mark International Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Day, held under the theme “No amount of alcohol is safe during pregnancy”, the workers said one in 10 pregnant women give birth to a child who has FAS.

This statistic brought the MEC for Health Dr Nomafrench Mbombo to the centre for the event on Monday September 12.

The worried MEC challenged families, and men in particular, to be more considerate towards pregnant women in the home.

She lashed out at men who failed to support their pregnant partners.

She said impoverished, rural communities of the province, including Khayelitsha and Gugulethu, are among those who have the highest incidents of FAS.

She said her department is hard at work to educate these communities about the dangers of drinking alcohol while pregnant but while they could do their best to raise awareness it was still up to individuals to act responsibly.

Dr Mbombo said the first 1 000 days of a child’s life was important for their development.

“We ask for the assistance of families who take alcohol to stop for the first two years in a family where there is a pregnant woman. Fathers should be more supportive of their partners. Imagine sitting with somebody drinking while you are sitting there, folding your arms. Let us work together and be sympathetic to those who are pregnant,” she said.

Dr Mbombo said FAS is preventable and it is important people know about this before they even start drinking while pregnant.

She said alcohol and drug abuse remains a challenge in the province.

“Alcohol also affects those who are diabetic and have high blood pressure. We are aware that most seniors don’t do drugs but gulp a lot. That is a problem for their health,” said Dr Mbombo.

“Let us be supportive and fight the syndrome together,” she said.

According to the social workers at the centre, more babies are born with FAS every year.

Social worker Nomakula Mrubata commended the commemoration but said more should be done to curb the syndrome.

“These are campaigns that should not be limited to the clinics only. They should be taken outside to the communities. Alcohol abuse by young girls is bad. We all have a responsibility to fight the scourge of drugs and alcohol. We have a responsibility to build a better nation,” she said. Sister Khuliswa Mbotyi made a passionate plea to pregnant women not to drink. “Alcohol damages the development of the child. Effects of that is juvenile delinquency. We urge both parents not to drink while the mom is pregnant,” she said.