The challenge of access to surgery

According to a recent study, 5 million human beings do not have sufficient access to essential surgery. Since 1978, Mercy Ships has collaborated with governments and the World Health Organisation to help respond to this challenge.

Share of population not having sufficient access to surgical care. (Click to enlarge. Source: The Lancet)

A large majority of the world population does not have the benefit of a nearby hospital or lack the financial means to seek treatment. In addition, hospitals and clinics in the poorest nations on the planet are often deprived of the equipment required to respond to needs and the skills to perform certain vital operations.
What could be worse than a dirty waiting room and a dilapidated operating theatre with well-worn equipment in a state of deterioration? For many without adequate care, a mild injury could be transformed into a fatal illness.

Alarming figures

In the world, two thirds of the world’s population, around 5 million people, does not have sufficient access to operations. This is the terrible assessment of a recent study undertaken by the medical journal The Lancet.
This study, Global Surgery 2030, shows that 93% of the people who are deprived of surgical care are from West and sub-Saharan Africa. On average, there are two doctors per 10,000 inhabitants, versus 32 in Europe, according to the World Health Organisation. Life expectancy is only 52 years, compared with 74 in Europe.

Lack of access to surgery – a source of poverty

In 2013, Dr. Michelle White teached Guinean caregivers at Donka Hospital (Conakry, Guinea) to use pulse oximeters offered by a partner of Mercy Ships.

Beyond the human drama, the group behind the study “Lancet Commission on Global Surgery” puts forward evidence of the disastrous economic consequences of untreated surgical problems. Without an urgent improvement within their health systems between now and 2030, countries with low or intermediate income will endure a loss of $12.3 million due to a lack of access to surgical care. This will reduce the annual growth of the GDP of these countries by 2%.
The governments of these countries are thus very interested in finding sustainable solutions to improve their health systems. In this sense the authors of this study encourage a close collaboration with humanitarian organisations. The objective is not just to respond to the immediate surgical needs of the population, but also to make the countries independent and capable of adequately training their doctors, surgeons and other health professionals.

The response of Mercy Ships

Suffering from cataracts, William had been blind for three years. He could no longer provide for his family. Thanks to Mercy Ships, he can see and work again!

Mercy Ships aims to respond to this challenge using their hospital ships. Health professionals provide specialised surgical care to the most underprivileged populations. Moreover, Mercy Ships supports lasting development with the help of medical training programmes and refurbishment of sanitary infrastructure, with the aim of improving health systems in the countries visited.
Mercy Ships always goes to countries at the invitation of their governments: before the arrival of the ship, we collaborate with the ministry of health to identify not only the needs but also to what extent we are in a position to support, reinforce and contribute to the improvement of the health system.

Our objective is that, one day, the countries that we serve will no longer have need of us and that they, in their turn, will be bringers of hope and healing!