Social Development Deputy Minister, Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu, has urged residents of Carletonville to protect unborn babies against the effects of alcohol.
The Deputy Minister was addressing community members during the fourth day of the 9-9-9 Foetal Alcohol Syndrome campaign in Carletonville on Sunday.
The 9-9-9 Foetal Alcohol Syndrome is an advocacy initiative that seeks to mobilise communities towards protecting unborn babies by educating people, especially women of childbearing age, about the dangers of drinking alcohol while pregnant or breastfeeding.
Some of the symptoms of Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) in children include facial abnormalities, learning difficulties, poor problem solving, coordination and socialisation skills, stubbornness, low birth weight and growth retardation and behavioral problems, including the inability to concentrate.
“As we rollout the 9-9-9 Foetal Alcohol Syndrome campaign, my plea to you is that an alcohol-free society begins with me and you. It is in your hands to build strong and resilient families by not drinking alcohol, so we may together contribute towards building an alcohol-free society.
“It is important for all women who are pregnant and those who wish to give birth to healthy babies to avoid alcohol. The damage caused by FAS is permanent and irreversible, and children born with this condition have physical and intellectual problems,” said Bogopane-Zulu.
The Deputy Minister appealed to the community of Carletonville to spread the message about the dangers of drinking while pregnant, as “it is possible to enjoy a non-alcoholic drink”.
One of the pregnant mothers, who preferred to be addressed as Victoria, was afforded an opportunity to share her personal experience.
“I stopped drinking after realising that I am pregnant, and I encourage mothers and future mothers to avoid drinking during pregnancy as I have seen that it is possible to protect our unborn babies. Personally, I was able to stop drinking while pregnant because I have support from my partner,” she said.
Another pregnant mother, who admitted to drinking alcohol during the first trimester, said she was able to stop drinking for the sake of the health and wellbeing of her baby.
In order to prevent the spread of Foetal Alcohol Syndrome, South Africans are encouraged to make use of intervention programmes, including medical treatment, education and awareness, as FAS can be prevented by not drinking alcohol during pregnancy.
Women who are planning to become pregnant are encouraged to adopt a healthy lifestyle before pregnancy.
The Foetal Alcohol Syndrome campaign is part of coordination and implementation of the National Drug Master Plan (NDMP 2019 – 2024), which aims to build a society free of substance abuse.
The NDMP’s objective can only be realised if the Department of Social Development works in collaboration with key social partner, including communities, traditional leaders and faith-based organisations.
The 9-9-9 Foetal Alcohol Syndrome campaign continues today at Boitekong Community Hall in Rustenburg, North West.
On Tuesday, the Deputy Minister will take the campaign to Limpopo at the Regorogile Multipurpose Centre in Thabazimbi.