Western Cape records highest number of gunshot wound cases in SA
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Cape Town - The Western Cape recorded the highest number of gunshot-related injuries countrywide in a newly published study, with most patients male, and under 35-years-old.
Researchers from institutions including Groote Schuur Hospital, UCT, the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Stellenbosch University, University of Pretoria and University of Oxford examined the burden of gunshot-related orthopaedic injuries across South Africa, using a multi-centre research network over a two-week period in 2019.
Results published in the South African Medical Research Journal spanned 37 centres in public hospitals, across the country’s nine provinces, with 135 patients enrolled.
The Western Cape reported the highest number of gunshot wound cases (52; 39%), followed by Gauteng (35; 26%) and KZN (29; 21%). The median age of patients was 30.5 years and the majority were male (89%).
Police were only aware of 67% of the gunshots captured in the study.
“In South Africa, the burden of gun violence is among the highest in the world. Gun-related mortality is estimated at 20 per day (11th highest globally),” the authors said.
The demographic of the patients in the study were described as “typical of the broader SA population” of which 40% completed only primary education and 73.9% were either not employed or in low-skilled employment.
Some 43% of patients had been either shot or stabbed prior to this injury, 52% required fracture fixation surgery and 11% required wound debridement without fracture fixation.
“Most patients were young males younger than 35 years of age. Almost half of the patients had previous experience with interpersonal violence. These data raise the question whether an intervention at the time of hospitalisation can prevent future episodes.
“Patients in these socio-economic brackets may be highly vulnerable to ‘health shock events’. Therefore, the effect of these injuries may further impoverish the members of society who can least afford it. The data identify that the police were only aware of 67% of the gunshots captured in this study. For policymakers, this has implications for the national understanding of gunshot-related crime, which is largely based on police data.”
Manenberg Safety Forum chairperson Roegshanda Pascoe said the data corresponded with the landscape of gang violence in her community.
“In 2013, my daughter was a victim, she was shot in the leg and taken to Jooste Hospital for treatment but police said they don’t know about the incident.
“It’s no surprise men are mostly affected because young boys are being roped into gangs and when there is gang violence they are the ones running in front, they are used by the gangs to shoot, they are the soldiers on the road.”
She said many young men were seen limping, many had lost use of their legs, are wheelchair-bound, legless or armless.
“Sometimes the nervous system in their hands are affected. The worst part is there is no system (helping) them to say this is where they will be rehabilitated and provided with a skill to be self-sufficient.”