Traditional circumcision death toll hits 40

2010-06-30 09:57

The winter circumcision death toll in the Eastern Cape had climbed

to 40 after the death of yet another would-be initiate, the health department

said today.

Spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo said the latest death happened on Tuesday

night in Tsolo, where a 19-year-old initiate died shortly after admission to Dr

Malizo Mpehle General Hospital.

About 150 initiates were being treated in hospitals in the


“We are treating 50 initiates in Mthatha’s General and Nelson

Mandela Academic hospitals alone,” said Kupelo.

Of these, 20 needed specialist care.

At St Barnabas Hospital in Libode, 18 teenagers were hospitalised,

while 66 in the Qaukeni area were being treated in four hospitals.

Fourteen were

being treated at Sulenkama Hospital in Qumbu.

Three of them required skin


Kupelo said the three major causes of death were dehydration,

pneumonia and septicaemia.

HIV/Aids was also a major concern where there was no

medical monitoring, he said.

“There is a high risk of HIV transmission when traditional surgeons

use the same tool to circumcise these boys.”

He said some misunderstood the department’s intervention as


“We are not custodians of the tradition, but we are bound to act

when we see people being hospitalised and dying in numbers, just like we do with

any outbreak such as measles or cholera.”

He called on traditional leaders and communities to work with

government to stop these “unnecessary” deaths.

“We, as the department, will stop at nothing to achieve our goal of

rescuing these boys and saving their lives.

As we speak, our officials are out

there, rescuing initiates who are in danger,” said Kupelo.

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