Alcohol abuse creates havoc
Nelson Mandela Bay residents have retained their infamous reputation of being heavy drinkers, according to the Eastern Cape Liquor Board.
It is a reality that Bay emergency service personnel said played a major role in the festive season havoc in and around the city.
Between December 14 and January 4 ambulance crews in the Friendly City attended to more than 1,000 assault and accident cases, the majority of which were alcohol-related.
Eastern Cape Liquor Board spokesperson Mgwebi Msiya said that “anecdotally” it knew from community reports that alcohol abuse in Nelson Mandela Bay was rife.
Msiya said it was also seeing a worrying spike in shebeens in the metro.
“A few years ago we collected data that showed people in the metro spend the most money on alcohol in the province,” he said.
“That would suggest a high rate of consumption. We have no evidence that shows anything has changed.
“In fact what we have found in our awareness campaigns are very low levels of understanding among the people from Nelson Mandela Bay of the dangers of alcohol abuse.”
Two years ago a study by the Foundation for Alcohol Related Research found that Bethelsdorp had the highest rate of foetal alcohol spectrum disorder in the world.
Meanwhile, statistics from the emergency services in Nelson Mandela Bay highlighted the enormous burden alcohol related violence is placing on the public health system.
According to official ambulance call statistics, 759 of the calls were in Port Elizabeth, 104 in Motherwell, 185 in Uitenhage, and 44 in Despatch.
Forty-five of the Port Elizabeth trauma cases were gunshots and two of those in Uitenhage were gunshots.
These also include 12 near drownings in the metro and four drowning deaths. A fifth of these cases were marked as life threatening trauma.
Ambulance crews said alcohol abuse played a major role in both assaults and accidents.
According to the statistics, ambulance crews were called out to 200 vehicle accidents in the metro.
Msiya said one of the strongest factors in the rise of alcohol abuse was that young people had nothing else to do.
“We are trying to find an alternative to ‘going to the tavern’ for them. We are introducing sport programmes and also trying to create employment.
“One of the biggest issues, however, is the increase in illegal traders who sell dangerous concoctions.”