The lack of family support, high levels of poverty and the absence of partners are some of the leading reasons expressed by women who turn to drinking alcohol during pregnancy.
The women were speaking to Social Development Deputy Minister, Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu, during her engagement with the community of Boitekong in the North West on Monday.
The Deputy Minister took the 9-9-9 Foetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder (FASD) campaign to Boitekong township, which has been identified as one of the areas with a high consumption of alcohol.
Bogopane-Zulu was joined by the North West Social Development MEC, Boitumelo Moiloa and the North West Health MEC, Madoda Sambatha.
The 9-9-9 FASD campaign is an advocacy initiative that seeks to mobilise communities towards protecting unborn babies by educating people, especially women of childbearing age about the dangers of drinking alcohol while pregnant or breastfeeding.
Community members, who were engaging with the Deputy Minister during the dialogues, painted a grim picture of the scourge of alcohol abuse in the township - particularly among young pregnant women.
Although surrounded by several platinum mining companies, Biotekong is an area struggling with high numbers of unemployment and poverty.
“The prevalence of alcohol abuse in the township is said to be so bad such that even children as young as five years old can easily get access to alcohol with no parental supervision,” the department said.
A four-month pregnant woman and resident of Boitekong, Basetsana Tlalang (28), said there were situations where one finds a child as young as five years old in a tavern and the owners do not care to intervene.
Tlalang, who was drinking alcohol in the first few weeks of her pregnancy but has since stopped, urged other pregnant women to completely stop drinking alcohol and doing drugs immediately when they realise that they are pregnant.
“I stopped drinking alcohol entirely after I confirmed that I was pregnant, and I am attending antenatal and information sessions at the clinic,” she said, adding that most pregnant teenagers in her area are orphans without any adult support.
Bogopane-Zulu called on the young pregnant girls who came to the dialogue to look after themselves for the sake of their unborn babies.
“You can only help me to fight FASD in this community by staying away from alcohol when you are pregnant. No amount of alcohol is safe for an unborn child,” she said.
The 9-9-9 FASD campaign continues this week in Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.
Source: South African Government News Agency