Why do 1.75 billion children lack access to safe surgery?

Why do 1.75 billion children lack access to safe surgery?

Why do 1.75 billion children lack access to safe surgery?

In a world where medical advancements are moving at lightning speed, the truth is that 1.75 billion children are without access to safe and essential surgery. That’s a global health crisis that needs to be addressed. At Humanity Direct we want to shine a light on the reasons why and advocate for solutions that can change millions of lives. Join us as we explore the causes of why 1.75 billion children lack access to safe surgery. From economic barriers and healthcare infrastructure to the shortage of trained medical professionals. Understanding why so many children are missing out on life-saving surgery is the first step to a healthier and fairer world for all.

The Global Divide

The lack of access to safe and timely surgery around the world is now a bigger killer of children than malaria, HIV and TB combined.

Conditions that could easily be operated on like hernias and appendicitis kill, and injuries such as burns from a cooking fire result in lifelong disabilities and birth malformations go untreated.

A lack of skilled surgeons, equipment, facilities, transport and investment all add up to prevent children from getting the life-saving and life-changing medical care they need.

The vast majority of these children all live in low and middle-income countries.

7 paediatric surgeons for 21 million children

Uganda, a low-income country, has one of the worst doctor-to-patient ratios in the world. The World Health Organisation recommends 1 doctor to every 10 patients yet Uganda has a rate of 1 doctor to every 25,000 patients.

The country has just 8 paediatric surgeons, 12 neurosurgeons and 28 orthopaedic surgeons available to a population 21 million children. Most surgeons work for hospitals in the main city of Kampala with very few, if any, working in rural areas.

The lack of skilled surgeons can be attributed to brain drain where highly skilled and educated people can afford to emigrate where better pay and opportunities are available. The impact is stark, decimating an already fragile healthcare system.

A walk to hospital

In 2018 a study revealed just 25% of Uganda’s population can reach emergency surgery within two hours. It leaves a large part of the population, particularly in rural areas lacking transport, unable to reach safe and timely surgery with walking or cycling to the nearest health centre the only option.

Yet many of us will be familiar with the term ‘the golden hour ‘ used to describe the crucial period when life-saving medical or surgical interventions can offer the highest chance of survival for a traumatically injured or sick patient.

For many people around the world, and especially where we work in Uganda, that precious hour is likely to be spent desperately trying to reach a hospital with an operating theatre. For children with conditions like hernia complications or those who’ve sustained an injury every minute counts yet many will die simply because they couldn’t make it in time.

The cost of treatment

In many low and middle-income countries, the official policy is that all surgical care at Government hospitals is to be delivered for free. The reality though is somewhat different with patients often having to pay hidden ‘out of pocket’ costs. Patients can be charged for instruments used during surgery, the hospital stay, medications and follow-up care.

With 41% of Uganda’s population living on less than $1.90 a day the chances of being able to contribute towards the cost of an operation are slim, especially among parents who may have to choose whether they can pay the school fees or for medical care. If medical treatment is paid for it can easily be a ‘catastrophic expense’ that pushes households into further poverty.

We’ve seen many cases where parents and carers, desperate to get their children the medical care they need seek alternative treatment that while cheaper doesn’t work and can sometimes make the condition even worse.

Can the world achieve Good Health for everyone by 2030?

We’ll shortly arrive at the 2030 deadline for achieving the global Sustainable Development Goals adopted by 193 UN member states in 2015. The 17 goals were created with the aim of peace and prosperity for people and the planet.

The goals of 1. No Poverty, 3. Good Health and Well-Being, and 8. Decent Work and Economic Growth, are all underpinned by ensuring people have access to safe and timely surgery. Without that, the 1.75 billion children needing an operation will be a global burden holding back the chance to establish a healthy population that can contribute to economic growth and help end global poverty.

What are we doing?

Humanity Direct is incredibly proud to be one of the few charities directly funding patients’ surgery by linking them with donors and fundraisers.

We work closely with a team of healthcare workers and surgeons who put forward children needing life-saving and life-changing operations that are too expensive to be funded by their parents and carers.

Our fundraisers and website help make it as simple as possible to cover the costs of an operation.

Since we started we’ve funded over 1000 operations from neurosurgery to skin grafts.

You can read some of our patient success stories here or to donate and help fund a child’s operation please visit our patient page.




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