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OBJECTIVES: The Lancet Commission on Global Surgery estimated that low/middle-income countries will lose an estimated cumulative loss of US$12.3 trillion from gross domestic product (GDP) due to the unmet burden of surgical disease. However, no country-specific data currently exist. We aimed to estimate the costs to the Sierra Leone economy from death and disability which may have been averted by surgical care. DESIGN: We used estimates of total, met and unmet need from two main sources-a cluster randomised, cross-sectional, countrywide survey and a retrospective, nationwide study on surgery in Sierra Leone. We calculated estimated disability-adjusted life years from morbidity and mortality for the estimated unmet burden and modelled the likely economic impact using three different methods-gross national income per capita, lifetime earnings foregone and value of a statistical life. RESULTS: In 2012, estimated, discounted lifetime losses to the Sierra Leone economy from the unmet burden of surgical disease was between US$1.1 and US$3.8 billion, depending on the economic method used. These lifetime losses equate to between 23% and 100% of the annual GDP for Sierra Leone. 80% of economic losses were due to mortality. The incremental losses averted by scale up of surgical provision to the Lancet Commission target of 80% were calculated to be between US$360 million and US$2.9 billion. CONCLUSION: There is a large economic loss from the unmet need for surgical care in Sierra Leone. There is an immediate need for massive investment to counteract ongoing economic losses.

Original publication




Journal article


Bmj open

Publication Date





global surgery, low and middle income countries, macroeconomic impact, sierra leone, unmet need, Cost of Illness, Developing Countries, Gross Domestic Product, Health Services Needs and Demand, Healthcare Disparities, Humans, Quality-Adjusted Life Years, Retrospective Studies, Sierra Leone, Surgical Procedures, Operative, Surveys and Questionnaires