A charity improving access to life-saving surgery for children in poorer countries has had its most successful year, with its work facilitating 50,000 operations with an estimated economic benefit of $1.5 billion.
Kids Operating Room (KidsOR) last year installed a further 23 operating rooms in Africa, taking its total in Low and Middle-Income Countries (LMIC) to 50, and has plans to increase this to 75 by the end of 2022.
The research was conducted independently by the University of California San Francisco working with local data collectors at each KidsOR partner hospital and presented as part of its annual impact report.
Launched by husband-and-wife philanthropists Garreth and Nicola Wood, the charity enabled 49,154 operations in 2021, an increase of 65% and up from 29,780 the previous year, while 66% of operations were elective compared to 34% emergency procedures.
The estimated economic benefit to African and South American countries where KidsOR has completed installations increased by almost £0.5 billion in the same period, up from $1.07 billion to $1.52 billion.
The years of disability prevented by KidsOR interventions increased from 509,000 in 2020 to 835,000, while medics treated 132 unique conditions, up 52 from 80 the previous year.
An important focus of the charity’s work is sustainability and investing in local people and infrastructure to transform care in LMICs and last year 100% of operations performed had a trainee present, compared to only 90% the previous year.
In order to support truly sustainable health systems, KidsOR provides scholarships to local doctors so that they can train to become paediatric surgeons and in 2021 the charity provided 22 scholarships in Africa, including three in partnership with fellow charity Smile Train.
KidsOR Chief Executive Officer, David Cunningham, said:
“By providing more than 3000 pieces of specialised paediatric surgical equipment in each of our 50 Operating Rooms, more children are now able to access the vital life-changing or life-saving surgical care.
“Thanks to the hard work and generosity of so many colleagues and friends of the charity, 2021 was our most impactful year yet and we are hugely excited that by the end of 2022 we will further expand access to safe surgery for children in low-resource settings with the addition of another 25 Operating Rooms.”
In Nigeria, a country of approximately 30 million children, KidsOR has installed three Operating Rooms at the Abuja National Hospital, creating the capacity to perform 1800 operations a year, and increasing the number of neonates accessing surgery by 140% – delivering an estimated economic benefit of $37 billion since 2019.
Now there is at least one trainee paediatric surgeon and one trainee anaesthesiologist present in every operation, providing a long-term positive impact for children’s access to life-saving surgery in Nigeria.
Dr Olubunmi Majekodunmi, Chief Paediatric Surgeon at the National Hospital Abuja, said:
“Having a KidsOR Operating Room means that our backlog of patients, which used to involve a waiting list of a year or sometimes more, has been cleared. The relief on the faces of parents when they realise that their kids can have operations within a few days – enough time for preoperative preparation – is priceless.”
Zambia, which has only six paediatric surgeons serving 8 million children, was the charity’s largest project in a single country at the one time with six operating rooms installed in two hospitals. Before installation, 20% of the operations at University Teaching Hospital went ahead without the necessary surgical resources – the biggest barrier being regulating children’s temperatures which often meant having to delay life-saving operations to warmer days.
Now two new dedicated paediatric surgeons are in training, there is the capacity for 3600 operations a year, and 61,000 disability-adjusted life years are being averted each year in Zambia.
Dr Mulenga, Paediatric Surgeon, at the Arthur Davidson Hospital said:
“We were using our phone lights to carry out some procedures, which made surgery difficult. We now have state-of-the-art Operating Rooms thanks to KidsOR.”
Charity co-founder and Chairman, Garreth Wood, said:
“For every operation performed in one of our partner hospitals, a local data collector records key data about the operation and its outcomes, as well as its impact on the child and their family.
“Analysing and reporting these data is vital to support local surgical teams, sustain political will, and provide donors with clarity on the difference they have made. Our research shows the real cost, and benefit, of saving a child’s life, preventing a life of pain and disability, and of transforming children’s futures.
“Our ability to deliver this wouldn’t be possible without the generous support of our donors, collaboration with our partners and the dedication of our Board, volunteers and staff team. We are constantly inspired by them and together we can make access to lifesaving and life-changing surgery for every child a reality.”
For more information on KidsOR, please visit: www.KidsOR.org.