Foetal alcohol syndrome devastating South Africa

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JOHANNESBURG - It is estimated that at least one million South Africans suffer from foetal alcohol syndrome -- and up to a further six million display symptoms associated with the disorder.

Experts say the figures are shocking, but the situation can be turned around through education.

"Alcohol is a poison and it poisons the baby’s whole body. That’s why we see children that don&39;t grow, so it can be detected before the baby is born in some cases because the foetus doesn’t grow," paediatrician Lorna Jacklin explained. "When they are born, their heads are way too small because the brain has been damaged."

Ignorance about the effects of alcohol on unborn babies has exacerbated South Africa’s foetal alcohol problem.

"Compared to overseas countries like the US, South Africa has... ten times the figures compared to the US. We&39;re talking about less than one percent in the USA and 10 percent and more in South Africa depending on which areas you are dealing with," paediatrician Louisa Bhengu said.

Experts continue to preach the wisdom of educating vulnerable communities.

Their message to pregnant women is clear: one drink is one too many.

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