One-year-old among drunk kids at shelter

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By MATT MEDVED and CANDICE BAILEYpage_7242505

Eight-year-old Candice Kasper is only one of a number of intoxicated children to have been taken in by community worker Maliga Naidoo, who says she rescued a year-old drunk baby at Christmas.

Candice was found at the centre yesterday after going missing from her home on Saturday.

Naidoo’s Cravenby Community Care Centre in Ravensmead, which she has been running for nine years, receives an average of 18 to 19 intoxicated pre-teen children every holiday season.

“The Christmas season is the worst,” said Naidoo. “When everyone is busy with parties, all sorts of drunken children are brought here. It is always the parents who have given them the alcohol.”

Naidoo provides accommodation to 48 mothers and children who have been abused, abandoned or are HIV-positive.

At Christmas, she said, a friend had asked her to go to an Uitsig house where she found a year-old baby lying by the door. She took the girl, who was vomiting and suffering from diarrhoea, to hospital where she was found to be intoxicated.

“What kind of adult can do that to their child?” said Naidoo.

“Social services gave her back to the mother a week later. The father called me and told me she was at a shebeen.”

Naidoo confronted the mother with the child protection unit in tow but the woman escaped.

“We are desperately trying to do the work that police, parents and other social workers are not doing to save these children,” said Naidoo.

Meanwhile, a survey shows that in the Western Cape almost 20% of children start drinking before they are 13.

And by the time they reach Grade 11, more than 60% regularly drink alcohol. These shock figures are drawn from the SA National Youth Risk Behaviour Survey, conducted in schools in 2002.

Nationally, about 40% of children aged 13 or under have had alcohol, with about 16% of them saying they indulged in binge drinking of more than five drinks at once.

Although the survey is based on research from five years ago, experts believe current figures are more than likely to be similar. For the survey, 10 699 high school children between the ages of 11 and 20 were interviewed.

Dr Neo Morojele, deputy director of the Medical Research Council’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse research unit, said the statistics were “probably the same or maybe even higher” by now.

Sarah Fisher of Substance Misuse: Advocacy, Research and Training said the phenomenon of underage drinking was not only happening in communities were socio-economic problems were rife.

She said drinking had be-come “acceptable” in society.

“Many parents buy their underage children coolers, thinking that the beverages are not alcoholic. Coolers and ciders have also become aimed at younger people.”

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~ by Matt Medved on July 12, 2007.

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