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International FASDAY: September 9, 2011

Ancient African proverb places Fetal Alcohol Syndrome on the Nation’s Agenda 


“The future of our country…
Does not only lie within our mothers’ wombs…
But also in the supporting hands of many…
Mothers’, Fathers’, Families’, Community Leaders’…
And yours…because in the end it takes a village to raise a child”

With this tribute to an ancient African proverb, FASfacts, a non-profit organisation that works towards decreasing the prevalence of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) in South Africa, hopes to create awareness for and eradicate apathy towards a pandemic that affects all, yet is highly underestimated by many.

According to FASfacts’ CEO, Francois Grobbelaar, an estimated 25 000 babies are born with FAS every year in South Africa. “In some areas up to 12.2% of babies are born with FAS – a problem of national proportion if compared to the statistic of 12% of adults with HIV/AIDS in South Africa. Considering that FAS is 100% preventable, this is a devastating occurrence – one that needs the active involvement and support of all South Africans to help raise awareness for and ultimately eliminate the prevalence of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome,” he says.

The shocking reality of this invisible disability is that there are one million FAS people, and five million prenatal alcohol damaged people in South Africa, according to Prof. Denis Viljoen from FARR (Foundation for Alcohol Related Research). Thus a staggering six million individuals are mentally and socially disabled. The severe negative impact of FAS and its consequences on the whole of South Africa, is totally underestimated.

As they commemorate International FAS Day on the 09.09.2011, FASfacts will call upon all South Africans to unite against the drinking of alcohol during pregnancy by means of a compelling advertising campaign that will be rolled out throughout the month of September. This advertising campaign, made possible through a grant of R728,000 from the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund (NLDTF), emphasises our interconnectedness as a society, highlighting the beauty of life without FAS, particularly the role that a community plays in the raising of happy, healthy children that will one day make a positive difference to this country.

FASfacts is keen to encourage all community members to be part of the national solution. Anyone who SMS’s the word “village” to 36012 ensures a R5 donation towards the fight against FAS, and also receives the official campaign song “It takes a Village”, composed and performed by Simon “Silence” Witbooi (from FASfacts), to their cell phone.

Facts about FAS in South Africa

  • An estimated 25 000 babies are born with FAS every year in South Africa.
  • South Africa has the highest frequency of FAS reported in one population anywhere in the world.
  • The prevalence of FAS in countries such as America varies from 0.1 to 0.8%, whereas in South Africa FAS is as high as 12.2% in some areas.
  • The prevalence rate of Fetal Alcohol Exposure is far higher than the recorded FAS rate (between three to five times higher).
  • FAS is the largest cause of mental retardation in most industrial nations.
  • FAS is found amongst all races and across all socio-economic groups.
  • Alcohol during pregnancy, regardless of quantity, can cause permanent brain damage.
  • FAS is 100% preventable.
  • There is no cure for FAS.

  • "A new baby is like the beginning of all things - wonder, hope, a dream of possibilities.” ―Eda J. Le Shan

  • “Drinking during pregnancy is linked with disaster – personal disaster for the ‘bright-eyed ones,’ disaster for their families and their hope for their young, and disaster for . . . society as we struggle to pay the huge price of this destruction.” - Prof. Ann Streissguth, Ph.D.

  • "If you're pregnant, don't drink. If you drink, don't get pregnant" - Eva Carner

  • "Every day is FASD Awareness day" - Teresa Kellerman (www.babybornfree.com)