In low and middle-income countries, approximately 85% of children have a surgically treatable condition before the age of 15. Within these countries, the burden of pediatric surgical conditions falls heaviest on those in rural areas. The objective of the current study was to evaluate the relationship between rurality, surgical condition and treatment status among a cohort of Ugandan children.
We identified 2176 children from 2315 households throughout Uganda using the Surgeons OverSeas Assessment of Surgical Need (SOSAS) survey. Children were randomly selected and were included in the study if they were 18 years of age or younger and had a surgical condition. Location of residence, surgical condition, and treatment status was compared among children.
Of the 305 children identified with surgical conditions, 81.9% lived in rural areas. The most prevalent causes of surgical conditions reported among rural and urban children were masses (24.0% and 25.5%, respectively), followed by wounds due to injury (19.6% and 16.4%, respectively). Among children with untreated surgical conditions, 79.1% reside in rural areas while 20.9% reside in urban areas. Among children with untreated surgical conditions, the leading reason for not seeking surgical care among children living in both rural and urban areas was a lack of money (40.6% and 31.4%, respectively), and the leading reason for not receiving care in both rural and urban settings was a lack of money (48.0% and 42.8%, respectively).
Our data suggest that over half of the children with a surgical condition surveyed are not receiving surgical care and a large majority of children with surgical needs were living in rural areas. Future interventions aimed at increasing surgical access in rural areas in low-income countries are needed.