The Department of Social Development kicked off its National Anti-Drug Awareness campaign week at the Forensic Science Laboratory in Pretoria on Monday.
The outreach program across the country is part of the department’s efforts which seek to create safer and healthier communities through coordinated prevention efforts, treatment for substance disorders, and a reduction in the production and distribution of illicit drugs.
The Department of Social Development initiated the National Anti-Drug Awareness Week to raise awareness on alcohol abuse and various substance abuse in the country.
This initiative is part of build-up awareness activities for the upcoming commemoration of the annual International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking (IDADAIT) on 26 June.
Aligned with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the International Agency Network for Demand Reduction, Drug Control, and Crime Prevention, this day aims to prioritise people’s well-being and reduce stigma associated with drug abuse
On Monday, the department visited the Foundation for Alcohol-Related Research (FARR). The visit sought to investigate data-driven scientific approaches towards building a healthier society, free from the detrimental effects of alcohol abuse with a focus on Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).
FARR, a Non-Profit Organization established in 1997, is dedicated to reducing birth defects caused by alcohol consumption during pregnancy and building a positive future for South African communities.
FARR as one of the few organizations capable of diagnosing FASD, plays a crucial role in identifying primary disabilities present at birth and the secondary disabilities that develop due to their presence.
The visit to FARR shed light on the organization’s range of support programmes and services available, including nationwide training with a particular focus on rural areas.
To date, the organisation has reached 92,363 individuals through 3 335 initiatives across South Africa.
The NDSD’s Anti-Substance Abuse and Social Crime, Chief Director, Siza Magangoe, emphasised the importance of collaboration with multiple stakeholders.
“As the government, we can come up with excellent policies and legislations but the implementation rests with NPOs and Stakeholders, there is not much that we can achieve on our own,” she said.
FARR, Chief Executive Officer, Dr Leanna Olivier, revealed startling statistics based on the organisation’s research study stating, “South Africa has the highest reported FASD prevalence in the world, at 31%”.
Dr Olivier stressed the preventable nature of FASD, stating: “Any woman can have a baby with foetal alcohol spectrum disorder if she drinks alcohol while pregnant.”
In South Africa, many women find out about their pregnancy when they are already between 12 to 20 weeks pregnant, which means that they might be putting their babies at risk of FASD without knowing it.