Sky TV picks up Weekend Post exposé

By Shaanaaz de Jager

BRITISH television network Sky News has tackled the issue of Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) in the Eastern Cape following an explosive exposé by Weekend Post.

Aired on the international network over the weekend, the documentary is the brainchild of freelance European producer Claude Colart, who spotted a tweet on Weekend Post’s report in September.

The report revealed how young girls in Nelson Mandela Bay’s northern areas deliberately consume excessive amounts of alcohol while pregnant so their babies are born with FASD, which qualifies them for a disability grant, among other findings.

“I spotted a tweet to the initial Weekend Post article and then found it online and read it,” Colart said.

“I then made contact with the Foundation for Alcohol Related Research (FARR) in Cape Town and at the same time e-mailed Weekend Post news editor John Harvey, who also wrote the article. John then put me in touch with Genevieve Hendricks at Cheshire Homes.”

The Sky News segment comes as Eastern Cape Liquor Board chief executive  Gonza Mati revealed that the board’s own recent survey found the Eastern Cape had the second highest level, after the Northern Cape, of harmful drinking among pregnant women in the country.

“The Eastern Cape Liquor Board conducted follow-up research on the FASD story that was published and discovered that, while there is a high prevalence of teenage drinking while pregnant and a number of FASD victims [in the province], these pregnant teens were not aware of the negative consequences of drinking liquor while pregnant, hence the board decided to embark on an awareness drive in the area,” Mati said.

Colart was joined by colleagues, special correspondent Alex Crawford and cameraman Garwen McLuckie, as he went around the northern areas filming interviews with various community members.

“I knew about the ‘dop’ [alcohol] issue in the Cape winelands and was very surprised and shocked when I read John’s article. After now having done the story and been to the townships, I can really say how bad and sad the drinking problems are,” Colart said.

A strategic planning session was held earlier in November and an anti-alcohol abuse campaign with the emphasis on FASD was held Friday, November 30.

“Another positive reaction after the article was that the Eastern Cape Liquor Board has acknowledged that teenage drinking is prevalent in the Timothy Valley area.

“The campaign is a way to allow the youth to see it’s about attaching responsibility to their actions,” Hendricks said.

Colart described Port Elizabeth as an “easy city for a journalist to work”.

The Department of Trade and Industry, in conjunction with the Eastern Cape Liquor Board, launched the annual national Festive Season Liquor Compliance and Awareness Campaign at Ebenezer tent in Mpuko Street, Jacksonville.

The campaign, which will run until December 31 under the theme “Responsible liquor trading and consumption is everybody’s business”, will be used to convey compliance messages targeting liquor traders and raise public awareness of the adverse effects of liquor abuse.

This is a shortened version of an article that appeared in the print edition of the Weekend Post on Saturday, December 1, 2012.

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