World Journal of Surgery

, Volume 40, Issue 8, pp 1823–1841 | Cite as

Surgical Non-governmental Organizations: Global Surgery’s Unknown Nonprofit Sector

  • Joshua S. Ng-KamstraEmail author
  • Johanna N. Riesel
  • Sumedha Arya
  • Brad Weston
  • Tino Kreutzer
  • John G. Meara
  • Mark G. Shrime
Original Scientific Report



Charitable organizations may play a significant role in the delivery of surgical care in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). However, in order to quantify their collective contribution, to account for the care they provide in national surgical plans, and to maximize coordination between organizations, a comprehensive database of these groups is required. We aimed to create such a database using web-available data.


We searched for organizations that meet the United Nations Rule of Law definition of non-governmental organizations and provide surgery in LMICs. We termed these surgical non-governmental organizations (s-NGOs). We screened multiple sources including a listing of disaster relief organizations, medical volunteerism databases, charity commissions, and the results of a literature search. We performed a secondary review of each eligible organization’s website to verify inclusion criteria and extracted data.


We found 403 s-NGOs providing surgery in all 139 LMICs, with most (61 %) incorporating surgery into a broader spectrum of health services. Over 80 % of s-NGOs had an office in the USA, the UK, Canada, India, or Australia, and they most commonly provided surgery in India (87 s-NGOs), Haiti (71), Kenya (60), and Ethiopia (55). The most common specialties provided were general surgery (184), obstetrics and gynecology (140), and plastic surgery (116).


This new catalog includes the largest number of s-NGOs to date, but this is likely to be incomplete. This list will be made publicly available to promote collaboration between s-NGOs, national health systems, and global health policymakers.


Charitable Organization Charity Commission Financial Risk Protection Lancet Commission Canada Revenue Agency 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The authors would like to thank Timothy Chung, Claudia Frankfurter, Celine Yeung, Laura Betcherman, Wan Jin Lee, Adrian Cozma, Sally Carver, Benedict Darren, and Bernard Ho for assistance with database screening and website review. We thank Lily Gutnik and colleagues for providing us with a list of organizations from a complementary study [20].

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflicts of interest

MGS has served as a volunteer surgeon with Mercy Ships and received speaking fees from Ethicon for work unrelated to this project. JGM has served as a volunteer surgeon with Operation Smile. JGM, JNR, and MGS were authors on The Lancet Commission on Global Surgery. The authors declare no other conflicts of interest.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (XLSX 473 kb)
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Supplementary material 2 (XLSX 475 kb)
268_2016_3486_MOESM3_ESM.docx (22 kb)
Supplementary material 3 (DOCX 22 kb)


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Copyright information

© Société Internationale de Chirurgie 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Program in Global Surgery and Social ChangeHarvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Plastic and Oral SurgeryBoston Children’s HospitalBostonUSA
  3. 3.Department of SurgeryUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  4. 4.Harvard Plastic Surgery Combined Residency ProgramBostonUSA
  5. 5.Faculty of MedicineUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  6. 6.Department of Emergency MedicineBrigham & Women’s HospitalBostonUSA
  7. 7.Affiliated Staff Harvard Humanitarian InitiativeCambridgeUSA
  8. 8.Department of Otology and Laryngology and Office of Global SurgeryMassachusetts Eye and Ear InfirmaryBostonUSA

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