There is a global surgical crisis

There is a global surgical crisis

5 billion people globally cannot access safe, affordable and timely surgery

Millions of people die or live a life of disability from conditions and illnesses that can be easily treated with surgery. This is not acceptable. Everyone deserves access to surgical care services.

Unfortunately, access to surgery is very different depending on the country you are born in. People born in low- and middle-middle income countries (LMICs) face huge inequalities accessing surgery. Under 6% of operations occur in the world’s poorest countries, despite representing more than two-thirds of the world’s population.

9 of 10 people cannot access basic surgical care in low-income countries

But not only that, 50% of the world cannot access basic healthcare. 

For years, the global health community has overlooked the key role surgery and anaesthesia play in improving healthcare systems. 

Acknowledged as essential to Universal Health Coverage in 2015, surgical care remains underfunded. Without investing in surgical care, we will never achieve Health for All. 

The barriers to achieving Surgery for All

Low- and middle-income countries face many barriers to improving access to surgical care. They lack facilities, staff, resources, funding and political and policy prioritizations from governing bodies. 

Researchers and experts agree that investing in surgical care is investing in health system strengthening. Having strong health systems has been the focus of much policy attention in recent years. It guides many of the global health targets in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), but there is a clear gap between discourse and real financial commitment. 

Improving access to surgical care means improving access to healthcare as a whole.

People's futures are at stake. Surgery could save 17 million lives each year.

The effects of not having a surgery are devastating for people and families. Many have to choose between a life-saving operation and financial ruin. 

Healthy populations also create economic benefits. A country which doesn’t invest in surgical care stands to lose $12.3 trillion in GDP by 2030. 

But global health funders and wealthy donors aren’t listening. They dictate how the money is spent, ignoring local voices and experts, and failing to create strong health systems. 

More people are now dying from non-communicable diseases (those that cannot be transmitted directly between people), such as cancer, road traffic accidents, births, and diabetes, than from transmittable diseases such as HIV/Aids and tuberculosis.

Read more on why global health financing is broken.

There is a projected shortfall of 18 million health workers by 2030

People’s lives are at stake if there are no healthcare workers to save them. There is a lack of health workers globally, but yet again, low- and middle- income countries suffer most.

Surgical care providers in LMICs are often overworked and over-burdened. Low-income countries, on average, have 1 specialist surgeon for over 3 million children. In high-income countries there is 1 for every 47,000 children. It’s not fair.

Surgical care is essential to achieving Universal Health Coverage, health-related SDGs and Health For All, yet has been ignored and under-funded for decades. The global health community needs to stand together. We need better investment to provide surgery for all and build strong health systems. 

Read more about why surgery is the answer to the global health crisis and Universal Health Coverage.

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