Initiation death toll a grim picture

2015-07-08 19:24
(Leon Sadiki, City Press)

(Leon Sadiki, City Press)

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Johannesburg - The death toll from the Eastern Cape winter initiation season has again risen on Monday to 21 people dying, the provincial health department said.

"A 16-year-old initiate died from his initiation school at Nothintsila village in Ngqeleni, bringing the number of deaths in the Eastern Cape to 21. Forensic pathology is en route to collect the body," spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo told News24.

"Police are also at the scene. The department has in the meantime organised extra beds and mattresses to accommodate initiates in overflowing hospitals while efforts are being made to establish field hospitals."

Earlier on Wednesday, Kupelo said the death toll had risen to 20, with 12 of the deaths having occurred in the OR Tambo district. 

The 16-year-old's death now raises that district's figure to 13.

Within the district itself, seven took place in Nyandeni municipality, including the 16-year-old, four in Mhlonhlo municipality, one in King Sabata Dalindyebo municipality, and one in Qaukeni municipality.

Three of the deaths happened in the Chris Hani district, two in the Alfred Nzo district, while one death occurred in the Joe Gqabi and Amathole districts, and one in Buffalo City metro municipality.

Kupelo said the increase in initiate hospital admissions could be viewed positively because it gave health workers an opportunity to prevent "spontaneous penile amputations".

Field hospitals

So far this season, we have recorded only one amputation at Frontier hospital in Queenstown. The field hospitals, once established, will also minimise the risk."

On Tuesday, he said the department said it would set up field hospitals for initiates to help relieve pressure on hospitals in the province. This will entail setting up a tent with essential equipment and stretchers, providing IV fluids, antibiotics and wound care.

"These initiates will be supported and provided emergency care until they are stabilised, when they will either be sent back to the school or referred for admission at our hospitals," Kupelo said at the time. "An implementation plan will be announced soon."

Medical conditions of initiates assessed

Community Development Foundation for SA (Codefsa) executive director and co-founder Nkululeko Nxesi said the foundation had teams across the province monitoring traditional initiation schools, especially in the OR Tambo district and hotspot municipalities.

"We assess the medical conditions of the initiates and we check their vulnerability," Nxesi said.

"For example, if there are boys that do not comply with traditional standards, or have been assaulted, we take those boys out of the schools. Those boys in a critical condition we literally take them to hospital."

The foundation also provided experienced traditional nurses to assist, who were accountable to Codefsa. Military veterans helped provide security at field hospitals set up within the province.

"The problem is those boys who go to hospital, once they leave hospital they are unsure whether they are men or boys in communities. As such, they are stigmatised," Nxesi said.

"The best way of cutting the cycle is to ensure the boys complete the initiation process once they receive the appropriate medical care."

He called for those responsible for the deaths of initiates and mutilating them to be arrested and prosecuted.

"We are developing models, where for example partnering with two traditional councils in Mount Frere where 100 initiates are undergoing initiation, without any problems," he said.

"We are interfacing the health aspect with the traditional aspect of initiation. We are supporting such programmes financially."

Read more on:    east london  |  traditional  |  health

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