Initiation schools claim 21 lives

MORE than 20 initiates have died in Eastern Cape since the start of the summer circumcision season, the provincial health department has said.

MORE than 20 initiates have died in Eastern Cape since the start of the summer circumcision season, the provincial health department has said.

Department spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo said yesterday the death of four initiates at an illegal initiation school at the weekend had brought the death toll to 21.

Kupelo said the four boys died at illegal initiation schools in Mthatha and Gompo in East London and Ndakana outside King William's Town.

He said of the total number of deaths so far, five victims were from the Libode-Ngqeleni area, four from Mthatha, three from Cathcart, three from Lusikisiki, two from Butterworth, and one each from Sterkspruit, Gompo, Whittlesea and Ndakana.

He said postmortems would be conducted on those who had died in hospitals to determine the cause of death.

On Wednesday, 18 youths were rescued from illegal initiation schools by health department officials in the Maclear area. They are being treated at hospitals in Maclear and Mthatha for ailments such as dehydration, septicaemia and gangrene, Kupelo said.

He said 33 initiates were currently being treated at Mthatha's Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital.

Fifty-six initiates had died by the end of the winter circumcision season in July. A law regulating male circumcision in the province has set the minimum age for the rite of passage as 18 years.

A clearance certificate from a healthcare facility ensuring a clean bill of health of an initiate is also required before admission to the school.

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