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Turning the tide against FAS in Northern Cape

As we recognise International Day of Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), it may seem like a daunting task to reduce harm created by alcohol abuse, but happily, it's something the Foundation for Alcohol Related Research (FARR) and the Industry Association for Responsible Alcohol Use (ARA) are making good progress with in the Northern Cape.
(Image: Kallerna, via Wikimedia Commons)
(Image: Kallerna, via Wikimedia Commons)
Ask the residents of places like De Aar and Upington in the Northern Cape. It is for their benefit that the ARA has continued to commit funds to FARR for their work in these communities.

The financial contributions have helped FARR reach and educate people about Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD), the permanent birth defects caused by mothers' drinking alcohol during pregnancy. Over a period of more than ten years ARA has provided FARR with in excess of R10 million in their quest to decrease the prevalence of FAS in communities through a holistic approach that includes education and awareness campaigns, setting up a training academy that skill up local care workers as well as working with young mothers and pregnant women through their Healthy Mother Healthy Baby programme.

Alarming rates of FAS

"Rates of FAS in South Africa, and particularly in the Northern Cape and Western Cape, are alarming," says ARA spokesperson, Adrian Botha. "This is why we are especially proud to have supported FARR and their initiatives, as they are the organisation who really uncovered the extent of the situation and created the facilities and programmes to address and reduce the problem. We foresee a long involvement and partnership with FARR in its efforts which are beginning to bear fruit."

Following a holistic approach involving a number of interventions and community education and awareness programmes, research is showing that FAS rates in the Northern Cape communities have dropped 30% in the past three years. "Awareness and education bring results," Botha says.

"ARA has been working with FARR in allowing us to develop our research and intervention programmes with children. Additional funding covered the appointment of consultants and development of training material and tool kits. The process involved assessments in schools, talks with parents, meeting with community members, and training additional social workers and care-workers," says Leana Olivier, CEO of FARR.

Says Olivier: "More specifically, the reduced rate of FASD came from ascertaining rates of FASD in De Aar and Upington and then introducing these various programmes to provide holistic interventions and then assessing these communities again three years later.

"We worked with women in high-risk categories in a number of ways, enrolled and monitored mothers in the FARR Healthy Mother programme, and taught them abstinence from drinking during and after pregnancy for the well-being of their children," added Olivier.

"We are also glad to have on board and to have provided assistance to the Committee for Crime Prevention in the Northern Cape who are spreading the word through local theatre productions," added Botha.

Knowledge IS power

Earlier this year, ARA contributed an additional R250 000 to the Committee for Crime Prevention in the Northern Cape for its theatre group to make a DVD of its performance for countrywide distribution. It provided R200 000 in 2008 and R150 000 last year. Their live shows are intended to confront audiences in a direct and sometimes humorous manner. The committee also launched a project called 'Knowledge is Power', to train disadvantaged and unemployed people to act and to stage live shows against alcohol and substance abuse. To date, the drama 'n Nugter Keuse has already reached more than 8000 pupils and teachers in 30 schools in the region.

Current feedback is that the communities are excited and expectant of even better things to come. Although the clinic in De Aar treats pregnant and new mothers during their pregnancy, it has become a source of great aid to them all.

"As these women and families pull together, they put other elements of their lives in place.

"ARA is extremely proud of the work being done by the community organisations in the Northern Cape and that our financial contribution is having such a significant and positive impact in these areas. We have always maintained that it is not a single approach to alleviating the issue of alcohol abuse, but rather a collective and multi-faceted approach that is going to make change," Botha says.

About ARA

The ARA is an association whose members include the major manufacturers of alcohol beverages in South Africa, such as SAB Ltd, members of the SA Liquor Brandowners Association (which includes Distell, Brandhouse, KWV, Douglas Green Bellingham, & Co, Pernod-Ricard and The Really Great Brand Company, among others), E Snell & Co Ltd, members of VinPro and members of Wine Cellars SA. A number of distributors and some retail chains such as Tops and Diamond Liquors have been welcomed as associate members.

The ARA is registered as a non-profit organisation (NPO) with the Department of Social Development and focuses on preventing alcohol abuse and its consequences. The association's mission is to reduce alcohol-related harm by combating the misuse and abuse of alcohol beverages and promoting only their responsible use.

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