Study: No life-saving surgery 'for billions'

Apr 27, 2015, 7:36 AM EDT
Surgeons operate a da Vinci Surgical robot to remove the tumor at the First Affiliated Hospital of Sun Yat-sen University on April 15, 2015 in Guangzhou, Guangdong province of China.
AFP/Getty Images

Two-thirds of the world's population have no access to safe and affordable surgery, according to a new study in The Lancet - more than double the number in previous estimates, reports the BBC.

It means millions of people are dying from treatable conditions such as appendicitis and obstructed labour. Most live in low and middle-income countries. The study suggests that 93% of people in sub-Saharan Africa cannot obtain basic surgical care.

Previous estimates have only looked at whether surgery was available. But this research has also considered whether people can travel to facilities within two hours, whether the procedure will be safe, and whether patients can actually afford the treatment.

One of the study's authors, Andy Leather, director of the King's Centre for Global Health, said the situation was outrageous. "People are dying and living with disabilities that could be avoided if they had good surgical treatment," he said. "Also, more and more people are being pushed into poverty trying to access surgical care."

The study suggests a quarter of people who have an operation cannot in fact afford it. Twenty-five experts spent a year and a half gathering evidence and testimony, from healthcare workers and patients, from more than 100 different countries as part of this report.

They are now calling for a greater focus on, and investment in, surgical care.