Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Project


The Institute for Disability Innovation identified Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) as a much needed project in Carnarvon, because South Africa has the highest reported incidence of FAS in the world. This project forms part of the Institute’s Community Development.




Written FAS literature in South Africa is minimal. There are very few FAS statistics available. There are no professionals to perform screenings or diagnostic evaluations in the rural areas, therefore is it very difficult to tell exactly how many South Africans are suffering from this syndrome.


Drinking alcohol during pregnancy, regardless of quantity, can cause permanent brain damage. There is no cure for FAS. The damage will stay with the child for life. The consequences of drinking during pregnancy are severe. There are 3 characteristics by which a FAS person can be identified, namely: growth retardation (before and after birth), facial characteristics and neurological effects namely permanent brain damage.

Persons with FAS therefore, have a lifelong disability, they will never be normal. Typical neurological disabilities that occur are: neurological damage resulting in a low level of intelligence, the person is physically disabled, visually impaired, hearing impaired, cannot learn, organs such as the heart are affected, they have behavioural problems, social problems, cannot receive, remember and execute tasks, they have no money sense, they cannot think and reason logically.

Secondary problems also exist, for example: school dropouts, unplanned pregnancies especially among young schoolgirls, cruel rapes, unemployment as well as trouble with the law.


StatsSA 2013, indicates that Northern Cape’s unemployment rate has increased by 4,7 percentage points (29.6%). Year for year, the picture is unchanged. Youth unemployment, measured as those aged between 15 and 34 years, stands at 34.5% in Northern Cape. Is this because of FAS? Are we doing enough to prevent FAS? The time has come to not just raise awareness and hold prevention campaigns. How?

The only way to prevent FAS 100% is when the mother does not drink any alcohol during her pregnancy. Therefore there is an urgent need for a FAS awareness, support and prevention skills training programme for pregnant women.