At least 21 boys died in South Africa while undergoing circumcision at the semiannual ceremony that began in November, authorities said.

Seventeen boys died in the Eastern Cape province while two others died in the North West and Western Cape provinces, according to a report from the EWN news site. These deaths occurred despite a crackdown on illegal initiation of people that resulted in deaths in the past.

The Congress of Traditional Chiefs of South Africa (Contralesa) blamed the government for the deaths, saying there was “a lack of support and resources in programs to reduce the number of casualties”.

Contralesa spokesman Xolile Ndevu said the government should declare initiation-related deaths a “national mourning.”

Mamkeli Ngam, spokesperson for cooperative governance and traditional affairs in Eastern Cape, said families should do more to reduce the number of deaths. “It’s not the government’s responsibility to make sure people go to the bush, it’s a family issue, a parenting issue, and a community issue,” he said.

An investigation was opened into the circumstances that led to these deaths, said Contralesa officials.

In the past 10 years, there have been more than 1,000 penitentiary amputations, reports the Xinhua News Agency.

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