Deaths rise to 16 just two weeks into initiation season

TERRIBLE TOLL: Three more initiates have died
TERRIBLE TOLL: Three more initiates have died

THREE more initiates have died in the Eastern Cape, pushing the initiation death toll within the first two weeks of the circumcision season to 16.

Traditional leaders said the situation forced them to look for alternatives, but were adamant male medical circumcision would not replace traditional initiation.

The latest three deaths were reported in Tantergate and Thornhill near Whittlesea in the Chris Hani district and in Barkly East, which falls within the Joe Gqabi district.

Authorities, including traditional leaders, government departments and the SAPS, among other stakeholders, said most of their focus had been on preparation and awareness campaigns in the troubled Mpondoland, which had been plagued by initiation deaths for almost two decades.

Eastern Cape House of Traditional Leaders (ECHTL) chairman Chief Ngangomhlaba Matanzima said the campaign in that area had proved successful.

However, instead of focusing on hotspot areas, emphasis should also be put on areas that recorded the least deaths.

“Of the 16 deaths so far, nine are reported in areas in the Chris Hani district and the remaining shared among various areas in the province,” Matanzima said.

“It is surprising. We do not want to know how many deaths we will be mourning by the end of the season or even by Christmas Day.”

He said the causes of death to date included dehydration and assault, while one died after an asthma attack and another is believed to have taken his own life.

He stressed that initiates needed to drink enough water.

Chief Mnoneleli Ranuga, who represented the ECHTL at a meeting in Queenstown yesterday, said the deaths in Chris Hani were raised as a concern.

“Dehydration was reported to be the major contributing factor in the deaths in Chris Hani,” he said. “Some of the areas are closer to the Karoo, and one can imagine the situation at initiation lodges, especially those built with plastic and corrugated iron.”

Ranuga said six monitoring teams, including doctors, nurses, SAPS members, health officials, traditional leaders and other stakeholders, were established to visit all the initiation lodges in the areas affected.

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