Australian High Commission
Ghana
Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Togo, Mali, Senegal, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea

Speech140529FASConference

Speech of the Australian High Commissioner to Ghana

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Conference, Accra, 29 May 2014

Check against delivery.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to welcome all participants to today’s event. I am very pleased to be with you this morning.

A very special welcome to Mrs. Oye Lithur, Minister for Children, Gender & Social Protection and Mrs Shirley Ayittey, Minister for Health.

I would like to acknowledge the efforts made by the organisers of this conference, the Ghana Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, in conjunction with the Ministries of Health and Gender and the University of Manitoba in Canada.

Australia is very pleased to support this national awareness campaign on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome in Ghana.

It’s a crucial issue to be addressed in Ghana, and sadly Australia is familiar with it as well.

In fact Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is the leading preventable cause of non-genetic, developmental disability in Australia.

The Australian Government is therefore committed to reducing the harms caused by drinking alcohol during pregnancy.

It has made significant investment over several years in improving the understanding of everyday Australians about Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.

Recent surveys in Australia showed a steady and statistically significant decline in the proportion of women who reported drinking alcohol during pregnancy from 2007 to 2011 – from about 50 to 35 per cent (52.8% to 34.8%).

To further reduce these levels, the Australian Government has developed an action plan which seeks to ensure that by 2016, reported cases of women drinking alcohol during pregnancy will decrease to 20 per cent.

Likewise in Ghana, there is a need to educate people about Fetal Alcohol Sydnrome and the dangers of drinking during pregnancy.

This conference is part of an ongoing campaign to create awareness and provide support to the fight against this terrible problem.

I commend the conference organisers for taking the initiative to bring you all together in an atmosphere of learning and sharing of experiences.

Australia is pleased to be associated with this conference and to have supported it with a grant from our Direct Aid Program.

We’re also very pleased to have a great relationship with Conference Chairperson, Regina Dodoo. Regina studied disability inclusive development in Australia in 2012 as a beneficiary of the Australia Awards program.

I can say that Regina is one of those case studies that prove the value in investing in education.

And I’m sure that we will be able to say the same thing about this conference.

I know that this conference will enable you to share information and ideas on how to prevent and manage Fetal Alcohol Syndrome in Ghana.

Importantly, I hope that it will lead to concrete outcomes, to enhance the ongoing national awareness raising campaign about Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.

Thanks again to the organisers for initiating this important event, and most importantly you as participants for attending.

I wish you all the best.

Thank you.