13th Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals


Comments Submitted to the Twelfth Session of the UN Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals 
June 19, 2014, New York, United Nations Headquarters 
 
Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the zero draft of goals and targets prepared by the 
United Nations’ Open Working Group (OWG) on Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). We 
represent a network of more than 20 Global Surgery and Anaesthesia organizations dedicated to 
improving access to quality surgical care and anaesthesia worldwide. 
 
This statement is submitted on behalf of the International Federation of Surgical Colleges, 
International College of Surgeons, the International Collaboration for Essential Surgery, the 
Global Surgery Initiative at Johns Hopkins University, The Lancet Commission on Global 
Surgery, Consortium of Universities for Global Health, and 16 other surgical and anaesthesia 
organizations listed below. 
 
We would like to commend the OWG for developing a comprehensive draft of goals and targets 
that represent an ambitious, yet achievable plan for working towards poverty eradication and 
sustainable development post-2015. We note, however, that Goal 3, the attainment of a healthy 
life for all people of all ages, needs further revision and consideration. Our comments will focus 
on this goal. 
 
Goal 3 includes non-communicable diseases, injury, and mental health. We fully support the 
inclusion of these items. We note, however, that there is a startling lack of focus and attention on 
provision of basic surgical care, an integral component of health systems that profoundly affects 
at least 2 billion marginalized people around the world[1]
 and represents an estimated 11-15% of 
the Global Burden of Disease.[2] To promote health for all ages and all socioeconomic strata, 
neglected surgical diseases must be addressed. Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) do not 
include treatment and care for patients with obstructed labour, congenital anomalies, hernias, 
cataracts and emergency care for injuries from road accidents, burns and falls. Together with 
essential surgical care for diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease and chronic lung disease, these 
conditions affect all age groups, all socioeconomic strata, and widely represent major disease 
categories. 
 
Around the world, gross inequity in access to surgical care continues. Nearly seventy-five 
percent of all surgical procedures are performed in higher income countries while the poorest 
third have access to only 3.5% of all procedures.
[3]
 Unsurprisingly, these countries have the most 
underdeveloped surgical capacity (i.e. lack of skilled surgical workforce, training and 
infrastructure) with corresponding higher rates of injury and maternal mortality.[4]-[5]
 Surgical 
patients and victims of neglected surgical diseases such as women with obstetric fistula, 
children with untreated cleft lip and palate, clubfoot, or other congenital anomalies, people living 
with large tumors or advanced cancers due to lack of access to surgical care and those living with 
blindness due to untreated cataracts represent some of the most marginalized members of 
society. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
  
The critical role of access to surgical care and anaesthesia has been gaining significant attention 
and support around the world. 
 
 The World Health Organization has slated a resolution on increasing access to emergency 
and essential surgical care and anaesthesia as a component of Universal Health Coverage 
in May 2015.
[6]-[7]
 
 
 Dr. Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank, endorsed surgery at the Lancet 
Commission on Global Surgery meeting, stating its “indivisible and indispensable role in 
health care.”[8]
 
 
 Within the UN system, the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) has 
recognized that surgery and anaesthesia have a crucial role to play in reducing the burden 
of death and disability worldwide, endorsing an indicator for the availability of surgical 
care “Waiting time for elective surgery” under Goal 5. 
 
 At the 8th
 session of the OWG side event on women empowerment, the Government of 
Tanzania issued an official statement on their proposal to increase access to essential 
surgery as a sustainable development goal in the post-2015 agenda within the framework 
of universal healthcare.[10]
 
 
Sustainable provision of surgical care and anaesthesia represents a critical part of integrated 
primary health care, contributing to lower mortality and morbidity from neglected surgical 
diseases, reducing economic and social disparities, and preventing adverse health outcomes 
arising from the burden of injuries and non-communicable diseases. Attaining a healthy life for 
all people of all ages therefore necessitates inclusion of essential surgical care as a sustainable 
development goal that must be explicitly stated. Without surgical care, there can be no way that 
true universal health coverage or Goal 3 can be achieved by 2030. 
 
We would therefore like to propose the following recommendations and changes to Goal 3: 
 
 3.4 by 2030 reduce by x% premature deaths from non-communicable diseases (NCDs), 
reduce deaths from injuries, including road traffic deaths, reduce deaths from neglected 
surgical diseases, promote mental health and wellbeing, and strengthen prevention and 
treatment of narcotic drug and substance abuse. 
 
 We also recommend that sub-goal 3.6 contain a definition of “universal health 
coverage” that includes essential surgical care as an important component of UHC. 
This is consistent with the WHO Executive Board’s recent approval of a technical item 
on “Strengthening Emergency and Essential Surgical Care and Anaesthesia as a 
Component of Universal Health Coverage”, which is scheduled to be introduced as a 
resolution in May 2015.[11]
 
 
 We support the Health cluster statement proposals, especially goal 3.7: by 2030 ensure 
universal availability to safe, effective, quality and affordable essential medicines, 
vaccines, immunizations and medical technologies, including health and assistive 
technologies, and services, including essential surgical care, anaesthesia, and 
rehabilitation for all. 
 
 Thank you for giving us the opportunity to comment on this excellent draft report and for 
considering our recommendations. We look forward to further engaging with the Open Working 
Group as the post-2015 goals and targets are established. 
 
Submitted by Global Surgery and Anaesthesia Partners 
 
International Federation of Surgical Colleges (IFSC) 
International Collaboration for Essential Surgery (ICES) 
Global Surgery Initiative, Johns Hopkins University (GSI) 
Association of Surgeons of Great Britain and Ireland (ASGBI) 
International Association of Humanitarian Medicine (IAHM) 
International College of Surgeons (ICS) 
The Lancet Commission of Global Surgery (LCoGS) 
Alliance for Surgery and Anesthesia Presence (ASAP) 
Consortium of Universities for Global Health (CUGH) 
Association of Surgeons in Training (ASiT) 
International Federation of Medical Students' Associations (IFMSA) 
Consortium of Universities for Global Health (CUGH) 
Association of Surgeons of Great Britain and Ireland (ASGBI) 
UCSF Global Partners in Anesthesia and Surgery (GPAS) 
UCSF Institute for Global Orthopaedics and Traumatology (IGOT) 
University of Utah Center for Global Surgery 
International Anesthesia Education Forum (IAEF) 
Operation Smile 
Kupona Foundation 
IVUMed 
Humanity First 
Lifebox 
Gradian Health 
The Right to Heal 
 
 
 
 
[1] Funk LM, Weiser TG, Berry WR, Lipsitz SR, Merry AF, Enright AC, Wilson IH, Dziekan G, Gawande AA. (2010). Global 
Operating Theatre Distribution and Pulse Oximetry Supply: An Estimation from Reported Data. Lancet. 375 (9746): 1055 – 1061. 
[2] Debas H, Gosselin R, McCord C, Thind A. Surgery. (2006) In: Jamison D, ed. Disease control priorities in developing countries. 
2nd edn. New York: Oxford University Press. 
[3] Weiser TG, Regenbogen SE, Thompson KD, Haynes AB, Lipsitz SR, Berry WR, Gawande AA. (2008). An estimation of the global 
volume of surgery: a modeling strategy based on available data. Lancet. 372: 139–144 
[4] Debas HT, Gosselin RA, McCord C, Thind A. Surgery. (2006). In: Jamison D, Evans D, Alleyne G, Jha P, Breman J, Measham 
A, et al. Eds. Disease control priorities in developing countries. 2nd edn. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. 
[5] Hill K, Thomas K, AbouZahr C, Walker N, Say L, et al. (2007) Estimates of maternal mortality worldwide between 1990 and 2005: 
an assessment of available data. Lancet 370: 1311–1319. 
[6] World Health Organization. (2014). Provisional Agenda (annotated). Executive Board EB135/1. 
http://apps.who.int/gb/ebwha/pdf_files/EB135/B135_3-en.pdf 
[7] World Health Organization. Strengthening emergency and essential surgical care and anaesthesia as a component of universal health 
coverage. Executive Board EB135/3. Provisional Agenda Item 5.1. 
http://apps.who.int/gb/ebwha/pdf_files/EB135/B135_1(annotated)-en.pdf 
[8] Kim JY. (January 17, 2014). Address to the Lancet Commission of Global Surgery. Boston, MA, USA 
http://www.globalsurgery.info/video/ 
[9] Leadership Council of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network. (2014) Indicators for Sustainable Development Goals. 
http://unsdsn.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/140522-comparison-Feb14-to-May22-version_tracked-changes.pdf 
[10] Permanent Mission of the United Republic of Tanzania to the United Nations. (2014). Presentation by Ms. Ellen Maduhu, 
Representative of the United Republic of Tanzania, During the United Nations Side Event on The Importance of Essential Surgical Care 
in Empowering Women and Children. http://essentialsurgery.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Tanzania-Official-Statement.pdf 
[11] World Health Organization. Strengthening emergency and essential surgical care and anaesthesia as a component of universal health 
coverage. Executive Board EB135/3. Provisional Agenda Item 5.1. 
http://apps.who.int/gb/ebwha/pdf_files/EB135/B135_3-en.pdf