Global Estimation of Surgical Procedures Needed for Forcibly Displaced Persons

Yuanting Zha*, Barclay Stewart, Eugenia Lee, Kyle N. Remick, David H. Rothstein, Reinou S. Groen, Gilbert Burnham, David K. Imagawa, Adam L. Kushner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Introduction: Sixty million people were displaced from their homes due to conflict, persecution, or human rights violations at the end of 2014. This vulnerable population bears a disproportionate burden of disease, much of which is surgically treatable. We sought to estimate the surgical needs for forcibly displaced persons globally to inform humanitarian assistance initiatives. Methods: Data regarding forcibly displaced persons, including refugees, internally displaced persons (IDPs), and asylum seekers were extracted from United Nations databases. Using the minimum proposed surgical rate of 4669 procedures per 100,000 persons annually, global, regional, and country-specific estimates were calculated. The prevalence of pregnancy and obstetric complications were used to estimate obstetric surgical needs. Results: At least 2.78 million surgical procedures (IQR 2.58–3.15 million) were needed for 59.5 million displaced persons. Of these, 1.06 million procedures were required in North Africa and the Middle East, representing an increase of 50 % from current unmet surgical need in the region. Host countries with the highest surgical burden for the displaced included Syria (388,000 procedures), Colombia (282,000 procedures), and Iraq (187,000). Between 4 and 10 % of required procedures were obstetric surgical procedures. Children aged <18 years made up 52 % of the displaced, portending a substantial demand for pediatric surgical care. Conclusion: Approximately three million procedures annually are required to meet the surgical needs of refugees, IDPs, and asylum seekers. Most displaced persons are hosted in countries with inadequate surgical care capacity. These figures should be considered when planning humanitarian assistance and targeted surgical capacity improvements.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2628-2634
Number of pages7
JournalWorld Journal of Surgery
Issue number11
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2016
Externally publishedYes


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