Fighting foetal alcohol disease

SOWETAN'S trend-setting and peerless nation building partnerships continue with the launch of a schools essay competition on foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) in Kimberley, Northern Cape, today.

SOWETAN'S trend-setting and peerless nation building partnerships continue with the launch of a schools essay competition on foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) in Kimberley, Northern Cape, today.

Tshireletso High School in Kimberley will host the launch, starting at 12pm. Spearheaded by the Kimberley Hospital's Human Genetics Unit and the Northern Cape health department, the competition is open to high school pupils in grades 8 and 9, and is designed to tackle the rampant FAS problem in the province.

Susan Peterson of the genetics unit and Wandile Madlala of the health department said this week that FAS was the major cause of mental retardation in the Western world, but that there was hope since FAS was not a natural phenomenon but created by mixing alcohol and pregnancy.

They say all alcohol-related birth defects arepreventable.

Northern Cape has the highest prevalence of FAS in South Africa, particularly in the town of De Aar .

Peterson said statistics proved that as little as 900ml of wine, five cans of beer a week or 30-40 drinks a month could cause the syndrome in a mother's unborn child.

The provincial essay competition will challenge youngsters to think seriously about the consequences of alcohol abuse, while honing their research and creative writing skills.

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