It turns out that 2/3rd of our world’s population are still deprived of safe and affordable surgery. According to a major new Commission, 5 billion people worldwide do not have access to safe and affordable surgery and anaesthesia when they need it, and access is worst in low-income and lower-middle income countries, where as many as 9 out of 10 people cannot access basic surgical care.
Just under a third of all deaths in 2010 (32.9 percent, 16.9 million deaths) were from conditions treatable with surgery – well surpassing the number of deaths from HIV / AIDS, TB, and malaria combined. Yet, despite this enormous burden of death and illness -which is largely borne by the world’s poorest people – surgery has, until now, been overlooked as a critical need for the health of the world’s population. As a result, untreated surgical conditions have exerted substantial but largely unrecognized negative effects on human health, welfare, and economic development.
Lead author Lars Hagander from Lund University said that the problem for people dying from common, treatable surgical conditions, such as appendicitis, obstructed labour, and fractures, was especially acute in the low- and middle-income countries of eastern, western and central sub-Saharan Africa, and South and Southeast Asia. Another of the Commission’s lead authors, Andy Leather, said that in the absence of surgical care, common, easily treatable illnesses become fatal, and hence, the global community couldn not continue to ignore this problem.
Despite the overwhelming magnitude of the problem, the Commission estimates that the countries where access to surgery is weakest could be scaled up to acceptable, and achievable, levels of access to surgery by 2030 with an investment of US 420 billion dollars, a cost far outweighed by the devastating economic cost to countries, communities, and families incurred by the current global shortfall in access to surgery. This highly cost-effective investment in surgery needs to be accompanied by sustainable financing mechanisms across the health care system, say the authors, and a firm commitment to universal health coverage.