The Department of Trade and Industry (dti) will today observe International Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Day.
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.
The department, together with the North West Department of Economic Development, Environment, Conservation and Tourism, is observing the day at the Madiba Banquet Hall in Potchefstroom, North West.
"The aim of the event is to intensify awareness and educate young people and women of child bearing age in particular on the harmful effects of alcohol abuse during pregnancy. FASD will be observed under the theme 'Stay Sober 9/9'," said the dti ahead of the start of the event.
FASD is commemorated internationally on an annual basis to enhance awareness of the dangers of consuming alcohol while pregnant.
The event is part of the department's Sobriety Campaign, whose purpose is to raise awareness on the high-risk behavioural activities related to alcohol abuse such as violence, risky sexual activities, and the spread of HIV/Aids.
It also aims to encourage behavioural change by offering alternatives in the form of government services aimed at empowering communities, including women and children.
FASD conditions include an abnormal appearance, short height, low body weight, small head size, poor coordination, behavioural problems and problems with hearing.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the annual liquor consumption by South Africans amounts to 7.81 litres of pure alcohol per person. This rate of consumption ranks South Africa 52nd on a list of 191 countries.
The department's Deputy Minister, Nomalungelo Gina, stressed the importance of education and awareness around alcohol abuse and drinking, especially while pregnant.
"Research has been conducted in areas of known or suspected high alcohol consumption by women. The Northern Cape remains a concern as it has the highest prevalence of FAS.
"The latest reports indicate that FASD is spreading to other regions in the country, with Wolmaranstad and Potchefstroom taking the lead in the North West," said Gina.