Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Awareness Programme & Capacity Building

What is FASD?

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum disorder or FASD describes children who have growth deficiencies, irreversible mental retardation as well as physical and central nervous system abnormalities as a result of their mothers’ alcohol intake during pregnancy. The effects of Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder are permanent and irreversible. There is no cure or treatment. FASD seriously impair a child’s lifetime ability to function mentally, physically and socially and to achieve his/her full potential.

Experts believe that between one and two-thirds of all children with special educational needs were affected by their mothers’ alcohol intake during pregnancy. South Africa has one of the highest incidences of FASD globally, with the greatest prevalence reported in the Western Cape. Although Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder is the most common preventable form of intellectual disability in the world and continues to be a serious public health problem in the Western Cape, it is preventable simply by ensuring that women refrain from drinking alcohol during their pregnancy.

FASD Prevention programme

SANCA Western Cape’s Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Awareness Programme is two-pronged: in additional to conducting an awareness, educational and prevention intervention, the programme also focuses on identifying, recruiting, training and equipping health workers, educators, professionals and other community volunteers to implement an awareness and education programme in at-risk communities in order to prevent and reduce the incidence of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).

The purpose of this intervention is to equip women in their childbearing years, especially those at risk, to make informed choices, enabling them to protect their unborn babies from the devastating effects of alcohol consumption during pregnancy and, in so doing, to reduce and prevent alcohol related birth defects.

Objectives of the programme

The specific objectives of SANCA’s FASD Programme are to:

  • Increase awareness of the dangers and consequences of alcohol use during pregnancy by disseminating knowledge and critical information at grass-roots, community level,
  • Ensure that high-risk women and teenage girls from impoverished, rural communities and farms are fully informed about and understand the negative and life-threatening consequences of substance abuse during pregnancy, and
  • Provide support services for mothers of FASD children to assist them to understand the special needs of their children and develop the necessary skills to care for them.

Programme Content

Information and awareness sessions

This community-based prevention, awareness and educational programme which is rendered by social workers focuses on:

  • At-risk women and teenage girls of childbearing age who are impactfully and successfully educated and informed during information and awareness sessions, and counselled about the dangers and consequences of consuming alcohol while pregnant, and
  • High-risk women who are identified and assisted to make informed, responsible decisions regarding the use of alcohol during pregnancy

Capacity building and training initiatives

SANCA Western Cape identifies and recruits health workers, educators, professionals and other community volunteers to spearhead community-based intervention and awareness initiatives in their own communities. Trainees attend a two-day training workshop that covers:

  • Factual information about alcohol abuse and FASD
  • Practical and experiential learning exercises,
  • Prevention and intervention strategies,
  • Basic counselling skills,
  • Conducting assessments and making referrals to appropriate treatment resources.

Ongoing coaching and support for newly trained community FASD volunteers are offered after the training to supervise and assist volunteers to:

  • Identify and assist at-risk women,
  • Establish and facilitate support groups for parents of FASD children,
  • Offer basic intervention, lay counselling and referral services, and
  • Present information and educational sessions.

Who are the beneficiaries?

Social workers from all six of SANCA’s branch offices market and offer the FASD Programme in under-resourced, high-risk, impoverished communities, primarily in farming and rural areas throughout the Cape Peninsula, Paarl, Wellington and Vredenberg where very high levels of alcohol abuse are common place. Approximately 6,100 women and teenage girls of childbearing age are targeted through this vital educational programme.

Costs of the programme

Approximately 90% of programme expenditure is secured by grants and donations through on-going fundraising. A nominal fee structure is in place to cover the shortfall. We require a motivational letter from the beneficiary to rendering of fully sponsored programme.