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999 campaign launched in Saldanha

The Deputy Minister of Social Development Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu has launched a campaign to highlight the risks associated with consuming alcohol during pregnancy and protect unborn babies against Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS).

The campaign, launched on Saturday 1 September, is called 999, as it is being rolled out in all nine provinces in the first nine days of September.

Moreover, World Foetal Alcohol Syndrome Day is commemorated each year at nine minutes past nine on the ninth day of the ninth month. Its official closing will be on the 9th in Gauteng.

Addressing residents of Saldanha, the Deputy Minister says alcohol is not good for pregnant women, as the risks are long-term and the dangers for unborn babies are real.

She said at the launch: “If a pregnant woman drinks, she is more likely to give birth to a child with intellectual and physical disabilities.

“We call on all women to take responsibility and not forget that they are givers of life. Those who drink alcohol while pregnant are not giving life; but they take it away from our communities.”

Bogopane-Zulu urged ward councillors to know their people, especially who is pregnant in their wards, so that the message can be spread against FAS.

This campaign, she said, is not only about raising awareness against FAS, but also to address issues of malnutrition by educating communities that “it is important for pregnant women to eat at least one nutritious meal a day for the benefit of unborn babies.”

During Bogopane-Zulu’s interaction with the community, one leader said the community needed to stand together.

“We need to unite and work together as a community and close illegal taverns,” she said. “It is not government alone that can address this problem – we also need to take action.”

Another community member said the issue of alcohol abuse by pregnant women cannot be addressed by social development alone. Other government departments must also be held accountable.

“We have many unlicensed liquor stores in our community, and it is up to law enforcement authorities, especially SAPS, to close illegal taverns,” the community member said.

FAS is a pattern of birth defects caused by mothers who abuse alcohol during pregnancy, which adversely affects children’s growth as well as their learning and development opportunities. The quantity of alcohol the mother drinks enters the unborn babies’ bloodstream and causes permanent and irreversible damage to the foetus.

Bogopane-Zulu also said government is willing to work with communities and remind them that prevention is better than cure.

Mothers and children who are 12 years and above were afforded an opportunity to sign a pledge against alcohol abuse by pregnant women.

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