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Circumcision deaths alarm SA


rhondathompson, [email protected]

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JOHANNESBURG – South African health officials are alarmed by the rise in deaths among men who have had botched traditional circumcisions, after 39 young men died in the last month after undergoing the rite of passage into manhood.Health officials estimated on Tuesday that as many as six young men had died every weekend in the past few weeks and that more than 120 young men were in hospitals nursing their wounds. Eastern Cape Provincial Health Department spokesman Sizwe Kupelo said the practice is common in the province.Eighteen-year-old boys generally undergo circumcision rites during school holidays, in midyear or at the end of the year. The procedure is performed outdoors by a traditional leader who uses a spear to remove the foreskin.The custom has drawn criticism because the circumcision is generally performed by unqualified traditional leaders in unsanitary conditions. Health officials say there is a high risk of infection, which can lead to amputation or even death.Kupelo said 91 newly circumcised men died last year alone, and of those operations 56 occurred during midyear school holidays. He said five traditional surgeons had been arrested since the beginning of June. He added that the government in the Eastern Cape had prohibited the practice in some areas where circumcision deaths had been particularly high.National Health Department chief Precious Matsoso said the department considered the situation to be “unacceptable”.“While we accept and respect the right of people to practise their traditions, this has to be done within the context of acceptable health norms and standards so that we can prevent such deaths,” she added. (AP)

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