Sad Video:Women Drinking To Harm Babies To Collect Disability Benefits
Mothers in one of South Africa’s poorest areas are drinking heavily to deliberately damage their unborn babies – just so they can claim disability benefit.
Life is so tough with unemployment high and crime rampant in South Africa’s Eastern Cape, that a newborn baby represents a form of income for the mothers.
State benefits mean 250 South African rand (£20) per child per month for an impoverished family. But disability allowance is a far more lucrative 1200 rand a month (£85).
It has led to a spike in the numbers of babies born with disabilities.
Mothers who drink heavily during pregnancy run a far higher risk of giving birth to a child born with what is known as Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). The condition is usually irreversible and can mean speech problems, physical deformities, learning difficulties and behavioural issues.
More than three-quarters of the children at the Miracle Kids Centre in Helenvale suffer from FASD.
The centre manager Genevieve Hendricks says the children struggle at school, end up dropping out and then many turn to crime to get by.
“It’s so sad to see,” she says cradling one of her young charges. “But we need to educate these mothers to know they are causing a lifetime of difficulties.”
The Eastern Cape Liquor Board has now been prompted to launch a campaign to educate young mothers about the dangers of drinking heavily whilst pregnant.
South Africa has had the highest number of FASD cases in the world since 2002, according to the World Health Organisation.
Many of the problems link back to the prevalence of illegal shebeens, or drinking houses, where homemade, highly addictive and damaging alcohol is sold cheaply. For about two rand (14p), you can buy a litre of kah-kah as the locals call it.
“If I don’t drink this, I’m like someone who is sick,” Ruth tells us swigging from a transparent bottle containing kah-kah. “I can’t sleep, and I cant think straight but when I have this then I am better and I can do anything.”
Within two sips Ruth (not her real name) was slurring and dribbling. She staggered up to the door to try to change her baby’s nappy before plonking the child on her lap, letting the baby breastfeed while she carried on drinking the toxic liquid.
She told me she drank about “five or six bottles a day” and that this started from “about nine o’clock” in the morning.
“I don’t drink through the day because I have things to do,” she said.
I’m afraid to say I didn’t believe her and when we dropped by her house the following morning, her eight-year-old twins were at home alone with her 15-year-old daughter.
“She’s at the shebeen,” we were told.
The police continually conduct raids on the shebeens, closing them down and throwing away the illegal alcohol. But no sooner one is shut down, another springs up.
“It’s cheap to produce and this represents an income to these people,” Colonel Abdoerahgmaan Humphries told Sky News.
We are with the Gelvendale police team as they raid one of the shebeens.
The filthy shed is packed full of people, including at least two women cuddling tiny babies. Most appeared intoxicated.
The police move onto what appears to be a small concrete room opposite. Against the wall is a brown wooden panel and when the police pull it down, it reveals a small hole, just big enough for an adult to crawl through. It opens out into another room which is the brewery. There are three barrels half filled with a milky brown liquid – the kah-kah. There are also numerous crates of bottles – all filled and ready to be sold.
“Asse blief bass (please boss)!” the man pleads. He wants to at least finish his own drink. Most of the brewers are themselves addicts.
The police take the crates out and pour the liquid away in front of the assembled residents, many of whom are drunk and now angry.
“Leave them! Leave us! It makes us happy,” one of the women screams at them.
There are several attempts to try to snatch bottles before they are poured on the wasteground.
The police move off to attend to a shooting elsewhere in the area.
“They’ll be back brewing some more right now,” one says to me as we speed off.