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How we’re urging South African women not to drink alcohol while pregnant

We believe that pregnant women should not drink alcohol – and we are involved in a number of programmes that communicate the risks to our consumers

A number of our businesses in different countries participated in last week’s International Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Awareness Day. This is a global event that highlights the risk of drinking alcohol during pregnancy and encourages pregnant women to abstain during those crucial months.

However, our partnerships and programmes operate throughout the year to address this problem – and our work so far has led to some encouraging results.

In South Africa, for example, our subsidiary The South African Breweries (SAB) has formed a partnership with a non-profit organisation called the Foundation for Alcohol Related Research (FARR). Our joint campaigning has led to the number of instances of FASD being reduced by 30% in De Aar, a town in the country’s Northern Cape Province, which had the highest incidence in the world of FASD disorders.

For a number of years, SAB and FARR have been educating women and their partners about the risks of drinking during pregnancy through a special ‘Healthy Mother, Healthy Baby’ programme. SAB has stepped up the partnership to also fund a ‘prevalence study’, in partnership with the provincial regulator and FARR, to map the impact of FASD in Bethelsdorp, in the Nelson Mandela Bay area of the Eastern Cape Province.

The FARR prevalence studies are community-based, getting close to people to understand how they are being affected. FARR experts speak to women where they live and assess children for signs of FASD.

Leana Oliver, Chief Executive of FARR, believes that this kind of fact-based assessment and collaboration across all stakeholder groups is an important and effective tool for understanding the impact of FASD, and ultimately preventing it.

FARR strongly believes that the problem of Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder can only be adequately addressed if all the stakeholders and role players share the responsibility of awareness and prevention on all levels of society.
Leana Oliver |Chief Executive,FARR
The Bethelsdorp research findings were used to develop and customise the Healthy Mother Healthy Baby (HMHB) programme to be implemented in community. The awareness and prevention programme will address many of the health and psycho-social challenges identified during the study, including nutrition, depression, exercise and substance abuse. The Healthy Mother, Healthy Baby programme will be offered to all pregnant women, not only those who are consumers of alcohol, at selected ante-natal clinics in the area. The aim is to support the mothers and their families to have healthier pregnancies and healthier babies. 

As part of the project SAB and FARR also opened an early childhood development (ECD) centre in the community. The Centre is located on an existing site that has received substantial investment from SAB, enabling it to provide care for up to 40 children between the ages of two and six years. The investment enabled the centre to register with the Department of Social Development as an ECD and apply for future funding from the Department.

The project has received support from the Eastern Cape Liquor Board (ECLB) and a number of provincial ministries in the Eastern Cape including the Health, Education, Social Development and Economic Affairs Ministries.

ECLB CEO, Mr K.C Maneli says: “The Eastern Cape Liquor Board has been immensely concerned with the lack of scientific data on the FASD, and invariably the FASD project in Bethelsdorp will act as a significant launchpad for our interventions that seek to alleviate the scourge of FAS.

We have also realised that in order to defeat this social ill, it is imperative that relevant stakeholders integrate their efforts.
K C Maneli |CEO,Eastern Cape Liquor Board

The centre will go on to provide much-needed formal childcare, enabling local women to return to work with the peace of mind that comes from knowing their children are well looked after. By attending such a centre, children’s development is stimulated and they are usually better prepared for formal schooling later on.

Our team at SAB are proud of the impact they and FARR have had so far, as Monwabisi Fandeso, SAB Executive Director Corporate Affairs and Transformation explains: “SAB has a very targeted approach towards building strong South African communities outlined in our global sustainable development framework, Prosper. One of the strategy’s key imperatives is to encourage responsible consumption and the company has initiated several hard hitting programmes to tackle alcohol abuse in South Africa. Fighting FAS is one of these initiatives.

It makes business sense to SAB for people to drink responsibly because a healthy society enables a thriving business environment. Like our partners, FARR and the ECLB, we strongly advocate that expectant mothers should not consume any alcohol for their own health and safety and that of their babies.
Monwabisi Fandeso |Executive Director Corporate Affairs and Transformation,The South African Breweries
This project is just one example of how we’re helping to address FASD around the world and spread the message about the risks of drinking alcohol while pregnant.

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