The Department of Trade and Industry (dti) has urged the liquor industry to drive programmes that will change South Africa's drinking culture.
"As a government, we are sending out a strong message to the liquor industry, liquor manufacturers, distributors and retailers to take responsibility for their products and drive programmes that will change the drinking culture in our country," said the department's Chief Director of the National Liquor Authority (NLA), Prea Ramdhuny.
Ramdhuny was speaking at the department's event to observe Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Day in Kuruman in the Northern Cape on Friday. Research conducted has shown the Northern Cape has a high prevalence of Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS).
Ramdhuny stressed that government, civil society, and corporates have a responsibility to collectively eradicate the scourge of alcohol abuse.
FASD is a group of conditions that occur in an individual whose mother consumed alcohol during pregnancy, with FAS being the most severe form of the condition.
Problems in children with FAS may include an abnormal appearance, short height, low body weight, small head size, poor coordination, behavioral problems and problems with hearing and sight.
Ramdhuny's comments came ahead of the commemoration of FASD Awareness Day, which is marked around the world annually on 9 September. The day was first commemorated in 1999 as a day where the world remembers that in the nine months of pregnancy, a woman should abstain from having any alcohol.
Community member Mmakadi Sebako said it was key for youth to learn about the disadvantages of alcohol abuse at a young age.
"Alcohol abuse in the district affects most youth and expectant women. More of these informative events are needed in the district as well as in villages so that more people can get the information brought by the departments. It should not just be a once-off thing," Sebako said.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the annual liquor consumption by South Africa amounts to 7.81 liters of pure alcohol per person and the rate of consumption ranks South Africa 52nd on a list of 191 countries.
"The South African government is concerned that South Africa is estimated to have alcohol consumption at a score of 4, which is riskier in a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being least risky and 5 being riskiest. It is against this backdrop that we deem it significant to intensify education and awareness around alcohol and liquor abuse and drinking while pregnant.
"Partnerships between government and communities are vital to decrease alcohol intake in South Africa," said Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies.
(With inputs from South African Government press release)