African Journal of Paediatric Surgery

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Pediatric Surgical Specialty: How Relevant to Africa?

Benedict C Nwomeh, Philip M Mshelbwala


Background The development of pediatric surgical care in Africa has suffered from the neglect of health policy makers, yet surgery remains an essential component of basic healthcare and an important means of providing preventive and curative treatment. The purpose of this report is to highlight the problem of childhood surgical disease in Africa, examine the current state of manpower and ancillary resources, and articulate the need to integrate pediatric surgical care into a comprehensive strategy for reducing the burden of disease.

Methods A current literature review of studies relevant to pediatric surgery in Africa was performed using MEDLINE. A thorough search of non-indexed local journals was also undertaken, and critical review of all cited sources was performed.

Results We highlighted recent epidemiological studies indicating that childhood surgical diseases constitute a significant healthcare problem in Africa. The leading causes are congenital anomalies, surgical infections, and trauma. The barriers to the development of effective pediatric surgical care are discussed, and strategies for improvement are proposed.

Conclusion Childhood surgical disease is an important cause of morbidity and mortality in African children. Specialist pediatric surgical care should be a vital component of a comprehensive strategy to address the endemic health problems facing the continent.
Key Words: Africa, pediatric surgery, developing countries, children, health policy
African Journal of Paediatric Surgery Vol.(1)1 2004: 36-42

AJOL African Journals Online