THE Department of Health has expressed concern and outrage regarding the alarming number of initiates who have died in Eastern Cape since the beginning of the winter circumcision season.
Department director-general Precious Matsoso said the deaths were unnecessary. She said so far 40 boys had died at these illegal initiation schools.
More than 150 initiates have been rescued and are receiving treatment in hospital after complications resulting from botched circumcisions.
"While we accept and respect the right of people to practice their traditions and culture, this has to be done within the context of acceptable health norms and standards so that we can prevent these deaths," she said.
"The death of young people robs our country of its future. It is even worse when such deaths occur under avoidable circumstances. The long-term effect on the amputees are too ghastly to contemplate."
Matsoso also committed her department to working closely with the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs in responding to this challenge.
Meanwhile, the debate as to whether initiates should be circumcised at hospitals before going to initiation schools is heating up. On Monday the DA's Neil Campbell called for initiates to be circumcised at hospitals and issued with a certificate.