AN ESTIMATED 25000 babies are born with foetal alcohol syndrome every year in South Africa - the highest reported incidence in the world.
Francois Grobbelaar, chief executive of FASfacts, an NGO that raises awareness about foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), said yesterday the disease was one of the main causes of severe mental disabilities and stunted physical growth in babies in South Africa.
"Drastic steps need to be taken to curb and erode this preventable disability," he said, ahead of World Foetal Alcohol Syndrome Day today.
"FAS is found in all races and across all socio-economic groups," Grobbelaar said.
Rural areas in the Western Cape and towns in the Northern Cape like De Aar are among the hardest hit by this disease.
The disease also affects babies born in urban areas, with a high prevalence among pregnant teens. The town of De Aar has the highest recorded incidence of FAS with 122 babies for every 1000 live births.
FASfacts will host an education event with Western Cape premier Helen Zille at Groenheuwel Primary, near Paarl, today to mark World Foetal Alcohol Syndrome Day. - Sapa