/ 14 July 2009

Eastern Cape circumcision death toll rises to 44

Circumcision deaths in the Eastern Cape rose to 44 while eight boys are in a critical condition in hospital, the province's health department said.

Circumcision deaths in the Eastern Cape rose to 44 while eight boys are in a critical condition in hospital, the province’s health department said on Tuesday.

Spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo said the latest victim, an 18-year-old from Ntabankulu, died at Sipetu hospital.

The eight boys were receiving specialised treatment at the Nelson Mandela hospital. They were among 39 who were rescued in the Ngqeleni and Qumbu areas on Monday.

The department appealed for community members to help put an end to the winter circumcision deaths, the bulk of them of initiates attending illegal schools.

”Our efforts are being frustrated by people hiding the boys away and as a result, they continue to die,” said Kupelo.

He explained that community members who knew the perpetrators did not report the crimes.

”They decide among themselves not to report the matter to authorities because they know the perpetrator will be arrested.

”They wait until the eleventh hour and by that stage, it is too late and the victims are certified dead at hospital.”

Kupelo urged residents to help the department and police capture the perpetrators.

”We are asking these community members to apprehend the culprits and call the police, and we will come and arrest them.

”That is the only way we can put a stop to this,” he said.

So far, 11 people have been arrested in connection with illegal circumcision crimes, and the cases were pending.

Kupelo cautioned parents to be aware of the law.

”The law is clear. If you want to circumcise your boy, take him to a doctor for a medical examination.

”The doctors will then be able to tell you if your boy is fit to do so. If he has tuberculosis, or pneumonia, or a sexually transmitted infection, then he is not fit.”

He said another problem interfering with the department’s campaign to end circumcision deaths, was that boys were being taken to the highest peaks of mountains or deep within dense forests to undergo circumcisions.

This was making it hard for authorities to rescue them. Kupelo said the circumcision death rate would have ”more than doubled” had it not been for the health department and police launching rescue operations.

He said so far, more than 200 boys had been rescued from the former Transkei district through the campaign.

The department said it would intensify its campaign on Tuesday by deploying officials to the affected areas to conduct their duties.

The province’s circumcision legislation required schools and the traditional surgeons and nurses that run them, to be registered. — Sapa