The Guardian, London, 7 January 2000

Botched circumcision kills boys

Chris McGreal in Johannesburg

Four boys have died and about 100 have been admitted to hospital after botched circumcision ceremonies in south Africa.

Doctors have blamed "traditional surgeons" who use the same blade to circumcise dozens of teenage boys at a time as part of ancient Xhosa rites of passage in Transkei.

The children either bled to death or died from infections. Some of those in hospital are in a critical condition.

Initiates have also complained of traditional surgeons who are drunk or high on cannabis during the cutting ceremony. Health workers have long warned against traditional methods of circumcision, in part because repeated use of the same blade will spread Aids and hepatitis.

Infections are also caused when bandages used to control bleeding are tied too tight.

The health ministry has threatened to prosecute traditional surgeons who fail to maintain good hygiene but with little effect.

Ten boys died during similar ceremonies in the middle of last year. Families typically pay 200 Rand (£ 20) for a traditional surgeon and attendants at the ceremony. Most Xhosa are too poor to pay for a hospital circumcision.

Traditional leaders in parts of the Eastern Cape are hoping a tiny clamp imported from Malaysia will put an end to deaths and infections.

The "Tara Klamp" does the cutting and then protects the wound , eliminating bandages. And it is used once, eliminating transmitted diseases.

The Guardian
119 Farringdon Road

(File updated 17 May 2003)

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