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Sustainable Surgery for South Sudan’s Kids: Changing Lives

04 Apr 2022

The College’s HOPE Foundation has joined forces with the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh to support the training of the first paediatric surgeon in South Sudan, through the work of charity KidsOR.

Consider this fact.
1,750,000,000 children lack access to safe surgery globally.
One billion, seven hundred and fifty million children.

That means 10 out of 11 children live in a country lacking the dedicated surgical infrastructure to get the care they need. Without those facilities, common, easily treatable illnesses become deadly diseases or cause life-long disability. We’re at a point where, despite significant progress elsewhere in global health, mortality and morbidity from common conditions needing surgery have grown in the world’s poorest regions, both in real terms and relative to other health gains. The Lancet Commission on Global Health recently estimated that 143 million additional surgical procedures are needed annually in low-and-middle- incomes countries (LMICs), 54 million for children alone.

Put in the simplest terms, there are hundreds of thousands of children needlessly dying every year, with more children, dying from surgically curable conditions than HIV, Malaria and TB combined.

How do we even begin to solve a problem on that scale? How can the College be part of a sustainable solution?

Through our HOPE Foundation, our College has chosen to support Scottish charity Kids Operating Room (KidsOR) and in so doing are beginning to play our part in ensuring that every child has access to safe surgery. At the end of 2021, the HOPE’s Trustees decided to support the training of South Sudan’s first-ever paediatric surgeon.

For context, despite being a country of 11 million, over half of whom are children, South Sudan lacks a single paediatric surgeon. To further emphasise that point, a country where 10% of children die before their 5th birthday, lacks both the infrastructure (with no dedicated paediatric operating theatre) and the expertise (without a single paediatric surgeon) needed to care for its children. That’s why HOPE’s Trustees supported KidsOR’s project to catalyse change. We’re not acting alone: HOPE and our College have teamed up with our friends at the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh – and their Global Surgery
Foundation – to jointly support KidsOR’s Paediatric Surgical Scholarship Programme.

KidsOR is a global health charity focused on the provision of high quality, safe surgical services for children in low- and middle-income countries. From their bases in Edinburgh, Dundee and Nairobi, they provide surgeons and their teams with the infrastructure and training needed to transform the care available for their nation’s children.

Importantly, KidsOR put sustainability at the heart of their model and, unlike some other participants in international development, only invest in local people, building real capacity and promoting self-reliance in the long-term. Over the past four years, the KidsOR team have moved quickly to put this model into practice, installing 50 operating rooms (ORs) across 22 countries; creating additional capacity for at least 30,000 operations each year.

Many of these ORs sit as part of KidsOR’s Africa 30 strategy, an ambitious but achievable, plan to deliver 120 ORs, train 100 paediatric surgeons and 100 paediatric anaesthesia providers across the continent by the end of the decade. The immediate outcome will be 10 million years of disability prevented, as some 635,000 children access emergency and essential care. The economic benefit to partner nations will go on to be an estimated $5.6billion.

The Colleges’ joint investment into South Sudan will form an important part of KidsOR’s plans, providing the funding for the first year of a five-year scholarship. That scholar, Dr Betty Arkangalo Yuggu Phillimona, will begin training at Baylor College of Medicine in Lilongwe, Malawi under Dr Bip Nandi, before returning to work at South Sudan’s first dedicated OR for children, within Al Saba Children’s Hospital, Juba.

Once qualified, it is estimated Dr Phillimona will go on to perform approximately 6,000 procedures over the course of 10-years (the average life-span of an OR). That’s 6,000 children just like Jibril, who had waited his whole ten-year life for a simple surgical procedure before KidsOR installed an OR in his town.

This then is how we solve the problem of 1,750,000,000 children lacking access to safe surgery. This is how the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow play a part in the solution:

  • Through cooperation: Together, both of Scotland’s ancient Surgical Colleges have come together to promote training and local capacity building in one of Africa’s most in need nations.
  • Through partnership: KidsOR work with local surgeons and local hospitals and partner with Ministries of Health and regional bodies to deliver truly exceptional surgical care that meets the needs of local people.
  • One operation at a time: Dr Phillimona is just one incredible surgeon. After graduation, she will perform thousands of life-saving and life-changing procedures. KidsOR will go on to train three more surgeons to join her in South Sudan. Together, they will perform thousands more procedures. By the end of the decade, KidsOR will have trained the surgeons and provided the capacity for over
    630,000 procedures. One Operating Room, one surgeon and one operation at time, collectively amounting to transformational, systematic change.

It costs KidsOR just £50 to provide a life-saving operation. You can support or find out more about their work by visiting
To make a donation to the HOPE Foundation visit

Category: Health Inequalities

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