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Surgical conditions represent approximately 30 per cent of the global burden of disease. Many conditions – from complications in childbirth to cancer and trauma from road traffic injuries – can be successfully treated by surgery.

In many parts of the world, access to emergency and essential services is extremely limited, with low and middle income countries concentrating available surgical care in urban centres. As a result, maternal mortality rates remain high, minor surgical issues become lethal and treatable injuries can lead to death or disability.

There are currently gross disparities in access to safe surgical care worldwide. According to the Lancet Commission on Global Surgery (2015), five billion people cannot access safe, affordable surigcal and anesthesia care when needed. Surgery is an integral, indivisible component of a properly functioning health system, and all people should have access to safe, high-quality surgical and anesthesia care with financial protection when needed.

Surgery has proven to be a very cost-effective intervention, and failure to treat surgical conditions threatens to significantly compromise the economic productivity of countries.

The biggest barrier to the provision of surgical care in Sub-Saharan Africa is the lack of adequately trained surgeons and ancillary health professionals. Once trained, these surgeons can provide surgery at an affordable cost; essential surgical procedures rank among the most cost effective of all health interventions. Investing in surgery saves lives, saves money, strengthens health systems and meets World Health Organization member state commitments to scale up surgery and anaesthesia care.

Widespread integration and scaling-up of surgical care around the world is necessary to reach new targets for Universal Health Coverage, the Sustainable Development Goals and creation of resilient health systems.

COSECSA is working to reach these targets through provision of a world-class surgical training programme, particularly focusing on rural areas, and the development of awareness raising initiatives around healthcare policies related to surgery.