Mortality and morbidity among traditionally circumcised Xhosa boys in the Eastern Cape Province, South Africa

Curationis. 2004 May;27(2):57-62. doi: 10.4102/curationis.v27i2.980.


Male circumcision is one of the oldest traditions observed by many societies. The ritual is performed at specific periods in life with the main purpose of integrating the male child into the society according to cultural norms. Recently, especially in the Eastern Cape, many initiates have died or have had to face life with mutilated genitals following this ritual.

The objective: of the study was to explore the causes of morbidity and mortality among traditionally circumcised Xhosa boys in the Eastern Cape.

Methodology: A revelatory case study design was used to obtain information from initiates and traditional surgeons and attendants in the Flagstaff District.

Results: From the data collected, restriction of fluid intake, unhealthy surroundings, like, cold and dusty holding rooms and incompetent attendants were cited as factors that contributed to dehydration; wound infection and respiratory infection.

Conclusion: The initiates recommended a collaboration with the Department of Health to ensure that circumcision is performed by knowledgeable persons in appropriate surroundings i.e. a clean and warm room with adequate space.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attitude of Health Personnel / ethnology*
  • Attitude to Health / ethnology*
  • Black People* / education
  • Black People* / ethnology
  • Black People* / statistics & numerical data
  • Causality
  • Child
  • Circumcision, Male / adverse effects*
  • Circumcision, Male / ethnology
  • Circumcision, Male / mortality*
  • Focus Groups
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Health Services Needs and Demand
  • Hospitalization / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Infection Control
  • Male
  • Medicine, Traditional*
  • Men / psychology*
  • Morbidity*
  • Narration
  • Nursing Methodology Research
  • Penis / injuries
  • Physician's Role
  • Qualitative Research
  • South Africa
  • Surveys and Questionnaires