Circumcision initiates pose as they walk on a field in Qunu, in the Eastern Cape
Initiates pose as they walk on a field in Qunu, in the Eastern Cape in this file photoSiegfried Modola/Reuters

At least 11 teenagers died following botched circumcision in Eastern Cape province in South Africa. All the deaths occurred within two weeks of the winter initiation season, authorities said on Saturday (8 July).

The Provincial Department of Traditional Affairs' Fikile Xasa said the local government was aware of the deaths. "The death toll of initiates in a short period is alarming," said Xasa, according to local reports.

In certain African cultures, circumcision is considered a sacred ritual to mark a male teenager's transition to manhood. The initiation season typically begins at the start of winter when teenagers across the villages are made to undergo circumcision.

Despite the government's "Zero Deaths" campaign, circumcision-linked deaths have been rampant in the Eastern Cape province where as many as 70 circumcision-related deaths took place in 2016. Besides, dozens of teenagers sustained penile injuries.

The Community Development Foundation of South Africa, which safeguards initiates from botched circumcision, said authorities have dispatched teams across the country to ensure there are no untoward incidents. The organisation has also rescued scores of young boys from illegal initiation schools.