South Africa reports some of the highest rates of alcohol consumption during pregnancy, resulting in a notable prevalence of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).
FASD is caused by prenatal alcohol use and refers to abnormalities in the fetus (unborn baby). The World Health Organization estimates that the national FASD prevalence rate in South Africa might be as high as 11%. The global rate is less than 1%. Based on this an estimated 5 million South Africans might have FASD.
To address this national primary health crisis, Aware.org and the Foundation for Alcohol Related Research (FARR) have a long-standing relationship by empowering expectant mothers and communities with information to make healthy choices and providing services to help women to have healthier pregnancies and substance abuse, including alcohol-free pregnancies. Various other community interventions and training of professional service providers also aim to assist communities to prevent babies from being born with FASD.
“I was unaware of how much alcohol could harm my child until my first baby was born with severe Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). She faced numerous health issues. Thankfully, the Healthy Mother Healthy Baby programme prevented me from drinking during my second pregnancy. He's now a healthy and typical child. I've quit alcohol altogether. I'm overjoyed for my healthy child, yet deeply saddened by what my first one had to go through," says a beneficiary of the HMHB programme.
Every year on 9 September, International FASD Awareness Day is observed in countries around the world. FASD is a lifelong, irreversible condition, but it is also 100% preventable. No amount of alcohol is safe to use during pregnancy.
"South Africa's high rate of FASD is a concern that requires collective action," says Carmen Mohapi, Managing Director of Aware.org. "Through our partnership with FARR, we aim to amplify awareness about the risks associated with prenatal alcohol consumption and advocate for a healthier future for our communities.”
As International FASD Awareness Day dawns on September 9th, South Africa finds itself at a crossroads. FASD, a lifelong and entirely preventable condition, has left an indelible mark on our nation. Yet, hope persists, carried on the shoulders of organisations like Aware.org and the Foundation for Alcohol Related Research (FARR). Through Through this long-standing partnership, expectant mothers receive the knowledge and support they need to choose health and sobriety for themselves and their babies. It's a mission that extends beyond statistics, touching lives and transforming futures. Together, we can change the narrative, one alcohol-free pregnancy at a time. South Africa's future deserves nothing less.