SA has highest rate of foetal alcohol disease, says NGO

An estimated 25 000 babies are born with Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) every year in South Africa — the highest reported incidence in the world, an NGO said on Tuesday.

Francois Grobbelaar, chief executive of FASfacts which raises awareness about FAS, said the disease was one of the main causes of severe mental disabilities and stunted physical growth in babies in South Africa.

”Drastic steps need to be taken to curb and erode this perfectly preventable disability,” said Grobbelaar, ahead of World Foetal Alcohol Syndrome Day on Wednesday.

”FAS is found in all races and across all socio-economic groups,” he said.

Rural areas in the Western Cape and towns in the Northern Cape such as De Aar are among the hardest hit by this disease, Grobbelaar said.

The disease also affects babies born in urban areas, with a high prevalence among pregnant teens.

The town of De Aar has the highest recorded incidence of FAS with 122 babies for every 1 000 live births.

”Through continuous intervention and life-changing strategies, FAS, an irreversible disability, could be one of the major health problems permanently removed from our country’s health risk issues,” Grobbelaar said.

FASfacts will host an education event with Western Cape Premier Helen Zille at Groenheuwel Primary, near Paarl, on Wednesday to mark World Foetal Alcohol Syndrome Day. — Sapa

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