Five Billion People Have No Access to Safe Surgery
In a recent BBC article, the author quotes a study by the Lancet Commission on Global Surgery - "Five billion people have no access to safe surgery." Another staggering statistic from the study shows that "a third of all deaths in 2010 (16.9 million) were from conditions which were treatable with surgery. That was more than the number of deaths from HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined."
People sometimes ask me, "why are you leaving your career here in the US and going to Africa full-time?" Aside from the primary reason, a call of God to go, I am burdened by the health care situation in sub-Saharan Africa, especially as it relates to surgical services. People are dying of very treatable surgical diseases due to lack of resources and education. Here in the US, if you have belly pain and it is determined you have appendicitis, you undergo a relatively simple and safe surgical procedure with safe anesthesia. In a lot of areas of Africa, people with this very treatable disease die due to lack of resources or qualified surgeons. Even if the procedure is attempted, the patient may die from the anesthesia. This same scenario is played out daily with other surgical and obstetric conditions as well.
While it seems like an overwhelming task to even make a dent in the substandard surgical care in Africa, people are making a difference. One program I work with is the Pan-African Academy of Christian Surgeons - PAACS. The organization trains and disciples African Christian doctors in a Western-equivalent surgical residency program. After training, these qualified surgeons then go to under-served areas to serve as leaders and improve the care in these locations. One of my long term goals is to start an anesthetist training program at Bongolo Hospital in Gabon in a similar style, training and discipling Christian anesthesia personnel to go to under-served areas to be leaders in perioperative safety, improving care and saving lives.