Sea Harvest note with concern a report released earlier this month by the Foundation for Alcohol Related Research (FARR) which found that over six percent of children in the Saldanha Bay District Municipality are born with Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).

Mary-Lou Harry, Sea Harvest Human Resources Director says, “We are deeply concerned by the recent reports of how Foetal Alcohol Syndrome is affecting the people of Saldanha Bay. As the single largest employer in Saldanha Bay we take our social responsibility seriously and are committed to scale efforts to raise awareness amongst our staff and indeed the wider community. Although we have been working closely with the Department of Social Development for many years, the report serves as a reminder that the challenge to eliminate this entirely preventable condition is far from over.”

Since 2012, six social workers have been permanently based at the Sea Harvest Social Development Office on Saldanha Main Road. The buildings rental costs are covered by Sea Harvest. This means that social workers are permanently based in the central location in town and have sufficient consulting space to be able to assist all members of the community. More than 600 cases of substance abuse and childcare interventions have been managed by this office which has helped a total of 1 483 locals from Saldanha between 2012 and 2015. Five satellite offices have since opened in the area, further extending the reach of the social workers.

Sea Harvest employs more than 2 500 people, of which 51% are women. “We have partnered with the Department of Social Development to run special support groups for employees at our Saldanha Bay factory. The groups are designed to address social challenges employees face outside of work,” says Harry. A Family Enrichment Programme, held on Saturday mornings, helps employees gain confidence in their care-giving skills as parents, consider various family planning options and learn how to remain healthy. Substance Abuse Support Groups meet twice a week, enabling employees who have been through drug or alcohol rehabilitation to gain confidence as they overcome major personal challenges. “We’ve seen a number of the empowered participants return to the groups as volunteer mentors to support those still battling to overcome their addiction,” says Harry.

Three nurses and two doctors at Sea Harvest’s on-site clinic ensure staff receive medical attention as required. Services at the clinic include health education and treatment of minor ailments and chronic diseases. Medical referrals from the clinic are covered by Sea Harvest. “Overall employee health is critical and we consider it an absolute necessity to ensure our staff, who are the main breadwinners, are able to work. To date, R6.9million has been invested into employee healthcare at the clinic since November 2013,” adds Harry.

In order to tackle the unemployment challenge in the area, Sea Harvest encourages youngsters in the region to obtain tertiary qualifications. Between 2010 and 2015 Sea Harvest awarded bursaries to the value of R870 000.

“Foetal Alcohol Syndrome is 100% preventable and 100% irreversible. We are committed to do all we can to improve the health, educational and social needs of the people of Saldanha Bay,” concludes Harry.