In Africa as well as parts of Asia and Latin America, women and babies die when labor takes a complicated turn and there is no one to provide a cesarean section. Young people succumb to accidental injuries for lack of surgical interventions. A child born with a cleft palate or club foot suffers through a lifetime of disability because no team is available to provide routine surgery.
In a 2008 paper in the World Journal of Surgery, Dr. Paul Farmer wrote: “In Africa, surgery may be thought of as the neglected stepchild of global health.” Farmer is a physician-anthropologist known for his humanitarian work with AIDS patients in Haiti.
Now the World Federation of Societies of Anaesthesiologists takes Farmer’s insight a logical step further. “We describe anesthesiology as the invisible sister of the neglected stepchild of global health,” says Julian Gore-Booth, chief executive officer of the WFSA.
The lack of adequately trained anesthesia providers, plain and simple, means more people die in poor countries, according to Cliff Roberson, nurse anesthetist and anesthesia adviser at Doctors Without Borders. Fewer surgeries can be done, or are provided by people with poor or no training in anesthesia, he said in an email.