THE DAILY DISPATCH, Eastern Cape Province, South Africa, 30 November 2004.

30 vehicles to assist initiation monitors

By Taralyn Bro

BHISHO - The forthcoming circumcision season got off to a good start yesterday when Health Department officials handed over 30 vehicles to medical officers to help them monitor initiation schools scattered throughout the province.

Department of Health fleet manager Odwa Matshaya said the 30 vehicles represented a R500 million saving for the department as they were re- assigned from within the department rather than being hired as in previous years.

"The vehicles include 4x4s, double cabs, and sedans," said Matshaya at Bhisho Hospital, where they were assigned to medical officers.

"These will be allocated according to the terrain where the medical officers will be operating. Our province has a vast area that needs to be covered and with these vehicles we will be able to reach the furthest rural areas."

The medical officers will have the vehicles until the end of February and then return them to the department.

The Department of Health's provincial co-ordinator for the circumcision programme, Solo Mkiva, welcomed the use of the vehicles which would make it easier for the team to inspect circumcision schools.

"We have managed to decrease the number of admissions into hospital and deaths of initiates because our medical officers have been able to visit lodges all over the province," said Mkiva.

He estimated that roughly 6000 initiates would undergo circumcision this season.

"Last season, a lot of circumcisions were performed illegally," Mkiva acknowledged. "Now, we are guided by the Circumcision Act."

In terms of the Act, initiates and traditional surgeons must follow certain guidelines for safety.

"You must go to a hospital or clinic and be examined, you must have the parents' signed consent, the traditional surgeon must have a valid form and it must be signed by a medical officer," Mkiva explained.

A medical officer and professional nurse from Keiskammahoek, Fumana Mabuda, said the vehicles would help him greatly as he needed to go into the bush in the Amahlati district.

"I need to travel into the bush and check the dressings of wounds. This will help eliminate sepsis and amputation," said Mabuda.

Daily Dispatch records indicate that by the end of last year's season 12 initiates had died and 86 had been taken to hospitals in the province due to botched circumcisions. These figures had shown a decrease from December 2002, when 17 deaths were recorded and 156 initiates were admitted to hospital.

(File created 1 December 2004)