CAPE TOWN, Dec. 17 (Xinhua) -- A total of 21 boys have died in South Africa as a result of botched circumcision since the summer initiation season began in November, authorities said on Monday.
The Eastern Cape province, a hotbed of illegal circumcision, reported 17 deaths, while the North West and the Western Cape provinces reported two deaths respectively, according to the Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa, or better known as Contralesa.
An investigation has been launched into circumstances leading to the fatalities, said Contralesa.
The deaths were reported despite an intensified crackdown on illegal initiation schools in a bid to achieve the goal of zero deaths during the initiation season.
Contralesa blamed the government for what it said "a lack of support and resources in programs aimed at reducing the number of casualties."
The situation entailed the need for the government to declare initiation-related deaths "a national disaster," Contralesa spokesperson Xolile Ndevu said.
Ndeve criticized the government for failing to direct resources to curbing initiation deaths.
Meanwhile, the Eastern Cape Province urged families, communities and traditional leaders to work hand in hand to ensure the creation of a conducive environment for a successful and safe initiation season.
The government alone cannot resolve this issue, provincial spokesperson Mamkeli Ngam said.
Circumcision is viewed as a sacred practice in African cultures, marking a male's transition from child to adulthood. According to the tradition, young males have to be circumcised as the passage to manhood.
Every year dozens of boys die and many more are hospitalized in South Africa as a result of botched circumcision. In the last 10 years there have been more than 1,000 penile amputations.