International Confab on Fetal Alcohol Disorder opens

Research has shown that alcohol consumption has dangerous consequences for females than males and was responsible for the occurrence of some disabilities among some children.

Speaking at an International Conference of Fetal Spectrum Disorder (FASD) in Accra on Thursday, Deputy Minister of Women Gender and Social Protection, Benita Okity-Duah said the Ministry was working to ensure that the rights of persons with disabilities who face challenges of unequal access to education and employment and public buildings were guaranteed.

“FASD is a matter of urgent health concern which must be brought to the attention of all,” she said.

The conference seeks to stimulate and create a national awareness on FASD and Alcohol Related Neurological Disorder (ARND) in Ghana.

Organised by the Ghana Organisation of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (GOFAS), with support from the Australian High Commission in Ghana, the Conference is to raise awareness and provide a forum for learning, and exchanges between international experts, Ghanaian practitioners and policy makers.

It is on the theme: “Protecting the Unborn Child: Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, a collective National Responsibility.”

The conference has brought together Ghanaian and international researchers, policy makers, practitioners, educators, graduate students, government representatives, NGOs, and persons whose lives have been affected by FASD from around the world, to present information on current research that had been done across the world.

The presentations and discussions would help in highlighting the problem which poses a serious threat to unborn babies and future children of Ghana, as well as develop a plan of action to address the issues and their impact on Ghana.

The two disorders which are known in Ghana though not commonly by the general population has become a silent creeping health crisis, which is preventable.

Dr Michael Baffoe, Conference Programme Coordinator, noted that alcohol consumption while pregnant, or alcohol consumption by women of child- bearing age, could cause serious damage to the unborn child, and a life- time disability to the child when delivered.

“Our task and objective with this initiative and gathering is to provide information that can assist women, their families and communities make informed decisions to prevent life-time damages and disability to children”.

The responsibility to protect the unborn child is a national one, he said, and it behoves on all to either “educate our compatriots, community and family members on the dangers inherent in drinking whilst pregnant, or to resolve to not drink whilst pregnant or when you think or know of the possibility of being pregnant”.

Ms Regina Amanaobea Dodoo, Chief Executive Officer of GOFAS, expressed regret, saying “we prefer in this country to sponsor and throw support to all kinds of entertainment events and sporting events but when it comes to critical issues affecting the welfare and health of the very vulnerable section of our population we tend either to look the other way, or regard them as unimportant”.

“We should not forget the fact that it is the unborn children who will be the leaders of tomorrow and the sportsmen/sportswomen and the entertainers of tomorrow. It is our collective national responsibility to pay attention to and support these initiatives that we have launched, which are aimed at drawing our attention to a major problem; the drinking of alcohol while pregnant”.

All available information shows that once the baby acquires a damage to its brain and features while in the womb, due to alcohol intake by its mother, a permanent life –time damage is inflicted on the baby, she said.

“We are therefore appealing to you all to carry this simple message far and wide to your homes, families and communities ;when you are pregnant do not drink alcohol, because when you drink, the baby drinks too and the effect is irreversible,” she added. GNA

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