Hospitals Struggle Against Odds to Treat Septic Initiates

News  East Cape News (Grahamstown, South Africa). Wednesday, 1 August 2001.

Steven Kretzmann

Five out of about 25 Xhosa initiates admitted to East London's Cecilia Makiwane hospital with circumcision injuries last month died in hospital, according to a young specialist doctor.

The doctor, whose identity is being withheld to protect her, said at least ten percent of initiates admitted returned home without a penis or just a stump to urinate with and had little chance of leading a normal sex life.

However, the doctor said because they still had testosterone- producing testicles and still experienced a sex drive, they experienced severe psychological stress when rejoining their community.

More than half of those who recovered, would experience difficulty in regaining their sexuality as a result of their injuries.

The initiates often arrived at the hospital in an emaciated and dehydrated condition.

They come in with a low blood count, or their kidneys have given in, they have cerebral oedema, or are very thin, or have a low protein count.

Some recover quickly, some just die with very little sepsis. It seems their organs just pack in.

It is very scary to see fit young men come in emaciated, sick, with their skin falling off, sick, sick, sick.

A senior nurse, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said communities responded negatively to young men who were mutilated by botched circumcisions.

They are ostracised and called names, especially by their peer group.

Many have breakdowns.

The doctor, who did not want to criticize the custom, said: It can be done properly. Circumcisions have happened in the past without being botched, so there must be a way.

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