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The busted hematology analyzer, which I encountered during a visit to a hospital in the rural Kono district in Sierra Leone, has plenty of company in the hall of nonfunctional medical equipment. The landscape of the West African countries I’ve worked in — not only Sierra Leone but also Liberia and Nigeria — is strewn with broken machines. Sometimes they bear the name of the nonprofit group or aid agency that made the donation. I’ve seen the same problem during two stints in a rural Nicaraguan hospital in 2005 and 2008.

Indeed, the scope of the problem is immense. To start with, WHO estimates that 80 percent of the medical equipment in developing countries is donated. A 2011 studylooked at inventory lists from 16 low-income countries and showed the number of nonfunctional medical equipment in that pool is at about 40 percent. (Take this with the caveat that most places I have worked do not have up-to-date inventories).

Meanwhile, in high-income countries less than 1 percent of medical equipment is out of service.

… Read More

Image: By ChiefHira – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14742353

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