Top Doctor Urges Pre-Initiation [Circumcision] School Medical Checks

News  Sowetan (Johannesburg). Wednesday, 11 July 2001.

Makhudu Sefara

A LEADING Eastern Cape surgeon and specialist in circumcision has recommended that initiates undergo pre-circumcision school medical examinations to help reduce deaths at initiation schools around the country.

Dr Mamisa Chabela of Motherwell in Port Elizabeth also suggested in an interview with Sowetan that communities that are hard hit by deaths at circumcision schools might also consider using a disposable single-use gadget, the Taraklamp, to bring down levels of excessive bleeding.

Chabela said the Taraklamp also helped reduce the risk of transmision of sexually transmitted diseases, HIV and hepatitis B, which can cause cancer of the liver.

She said deaths at circumcision schools were preventable, but people needed to follow certain procedures to turn the tide.

Chabela's comments coincided with an announcement by the police in Northern Province that two more youths had died at circumcision schools, bringing to seven the number in the province.

Eastern Cape department of health spokesman Mr Mahlubandile Mageda told Sowetan yesterday that a number stood at 11 by yesterday.

Most deaths were caused by dehydration, sepsis (blood infection) and assaults at the circumcisions schools, said Mageda.

He said so rife and widespread was the problem that the department had appointed intervention units to monitor problematic circumcision schools. He said that dehydration was caused by excessive bleeding, which led to the weakening of the body and eventual death.

Northern Province police spokesman Inspector Moatshe Ngoepe said post- mortem results showed that all five victims in the Lowveld region died as a result of a combination of excessive bleeding and pneumonia.

Police also said that two of those who died in the Far North had suffered excessive bleeding. One was still in the Tshilidzini Hospital in a critical condition.

Chabela said she had involved herself in circumcision matters, normally an exclusively male domain, when boys were brought to her surgery after botched circumcisions.

In some cases I found that the boys suffered from gangrene, a condition when blood does not flow to the wound, she said.

In the worst cases bad wound management led to removal of the front part of the penis and at times the complete removal of the penis if it threatened one's life.

Some boys committed suicide after their penises were removed in hospitals.

She said since the programme was adopted at Motherwell in 1991, no single death was recorded. The broader South African community, she said, could benefit by emulating the programme.

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