Surgical Poverty
At the age of 21, Bukayo Saka is not just the face of Arsenal Football Club, he is the face of every Nigerian who emigrated to North London. He is the face of every black child whose dreams ignite as the Emirates symphony floods the night. Despite his tender years and relaxed demeanor, Bukayo Saka is not ignorant of the significance of his example. He has already inspired generations with his tireless work ethic and mercurial footwork. However, his recent partnership with BigShoe aims to fill a much bigger pair of boots. Bukayo Saka and BigShoe are fighting against surgical poverty, which hampers the prospects of children everywhere.

The Issue of Surgical Poverty Amongst Deprived Children

A Meta-Analysis by Bull World Health Organ found that 1.7 billion children could not access surgical care in 2017. This surgical poverty exists intensely in low-income communities, where less than 3% of children can access life-saving medical care. Surgical poverty has a devastating impact on children under 5 in particular. Treatable birth defects, injuries and diseases cause mass disability and death. In 2019, 5.2 million children under 5 died from treatable causes. Despite meaningful progress in infant mortality rates this century, surgical poverty still wreaks havoc amongst the poorest children.

BigShoe’s Mission to Provide Impoverished Children With Critical Surgery

BigShoe is a charity that funds critical operations for children who cannot afford them. It began with a fundraising campaign for Nourisson, a little girl who was born in Togo with a cleft. Today, BigShoe is a vast NGO that encourages prominent football players around the globe to fork out large sums of money, funding operations for needy children. Mesut Özil, Antonio Rüdiger, Phillip Lahm, Oleksandr Zinchenko and Paul Pogba are some of the high-profile players who partnered with BigShoe over the last two decades. Since the creation of BigShoe during the 2006 FIFA World Cup, BigShoe has facilitated essential operations for 2,398 children in need, as of January 2023.

Bukayo Saka and BigShoe

In November 2022, Bukayo Sako joined a growing community of premier league footballers who dedicate their platform and paychecks to charitable causes. In keeping with the example that his peers set, Bukoyo Saka made a diligent donation. Together, Bukayo Saka and BigShoe facilitated 120 life-changing operations for impoverished children.

Speaking about the new partnership, Bukayo Saka stated: “I feel blessed to be in a position where I can contribute to making the children’s lives easier and better through these surgeries… for me, it is very important to use my abilities to have a positive impact where I can. I want to do more and more and help as many children as I can.”

Whilst not much older than a child himself, Bukayo Saka speaks with wisdom beyond his years. Bukaya Saka seems determined to make a lasting impact with his influence and money. The young cub sets an example for his senior premier league peers who are content to live lavishly. Child poverty remains rife in the modern world, but even one player can make a massive difference. Bukayo Saka and BigShoe play for the most important team of all, as the future of the planet rests in the health of the children.

– David Smith
Photo: Flickr

Nurses Perform Life Saving Surgery in EthiopiaLess than two billion of the world’s population have access to safe, emergency surgery. Lack of surgical interventions accounts for 32% of deaths worldwide, according to a report published by the Lancet. In rural areas, patients travel long distances and sell belongings to receive the emergency care they need. It is often too late to help them by the time they meet with a specialist. For the first time, nurses were trained to provide life-saving surgery in Ethiopia.

Lack of Access

In countries like Ethiopia, lack of access is primarily due to physician shortage. After training for 10 years, many specialists leave the country for better conditions and pay. The current specialist ratio in Ethiopia is less than 1:100,000. This makes it impossible for the majority of the population to gain access to surgery in Ethiopia.

Training Nurses to Perform Surgery

The Ethiopian government began implementing a novel solution to the problem in 2009. Nurses, midwives and other healthcare workers were trained to provide emergency surgery such as cesarean section, appendectomy and laparotomy. Moreover, in the last decade, thousands of healthcare professionals have graduated from the three years training program. This provided people in rural settings access to surgery in Ethiopia. The majority of surgeries done were cesarean sections, which helped reduce the maternal mortality rate by half in 2015. Nurses or trained surgical officers achieve outcomes comparable to that of surgeons. Some medical professionals believe this is due to the experience of these individuals working on the front lines. They can identify emergencies skillfully and provide effective solutions.

Other Countries Are Doing the Same

Nurses comprise 50% of the global healthcare workforce. Many organizations such as the International Council of Nurses argue that nurses don’t currently work at their full potential. Nursing Now, another organization, believes that by utilizing nurses more, we could reach global health goals faster. Despite successes, skeptics are still concerned that nurses will not be able to deliver healthcare as effectively as traditionally trained physicians. However, other African countries including Mozambique and Tanzania have also started similar programs. Additionally, these programs observed that training midlevel providers to do surgery was a cost-effective method to provide long term care in rural areas. Around 90% of the providers stayed in rural locations after seven years compared with 0% of physicians.


Despite the success of nurses in increasing access to surgery in Ethiopia, they are still faced with many challenges. Routine power cuts interrupt surgeries around the country with dangerous consequences. In addition, the shortage of resources such as antibiotics and anesthesia hinders the work of these health care workers. Poor equipment and long waiting times contribute the most to high mortality rates for surgery in Ethiopia and other developing countries. Although emergency surgical workers have expanded the workforce, they do not solve the problem of low resources.

To continue increasing access to surgery in Ethiopia, the country was part of Safe Surgery 2020 in 2015. Safe Surgery 2020 is an initiative that partners with other NGOs to provide life-saving surgery to more of the world’s population in a safe and affordable way. The initiative has taken lessons from training healthcare providers and applied them to Cambodia and Tanzania as well. In addition to training more workers, Safe Surgery 2020 addresses gaps in infrastructure, policy development and research.

Future development programs can support the positive work being done by improving infrastructure and the delivery of resources to rural areas. By training more local experts, more of the world population can have access to basic surgery and healthcare.

Beti Sharew

Photo: Flickr