Chronic Shortage of Anesthesia Prompts Direct Relief Response in Niger 12 May 2006 23:22:00 GMT Source: Direct Relief International (DRI) - USA http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/fromthefield/219816/114747629440.htm The country of Niger, a landlocked country directly south of the Saharan desert, is the world's poorest, ranking 177 out of 177 on the UNDP Human Development Index (2005). Cycles of drought in the last two years have exacerbated the poverty of Niger's 12.5 million people, the majority of which are engaged in subsistence farming. Though the Ministry of Health operates a countrywide public health system, facilities are often chronically short of supplies needed to provide adequate care to patients. In April 2006, Niger's Ministry of Health drew down its supply of general anesthesia used in the public hospitals across the country to the point of crisis for the public health system. With no general anesthesia available, all major surgeries were halted in the country's largest hospital, the National Hospital in Niamey. Direct Relief, active with medical material assistance to Niger, intervened to assist the National Hospital with a supply of general anesthesia. Within days of this urgent appeal to Direct Relief, the organization responded with an emergency delivery of ketamine (an injectible general anesthetic agent) to the National Hospital to enable heavy surgeries to resume. The emergency supply of anesthetic will provide sufficient amount of ketamine for 8,100 surgeries for small to medium sized adults. With five operating rooms, the 1,000-bed hospital in Niger's capital is the largest in the country and is the only facility able to conduct heavy surgical procedures - 400 beds are dedicated exclusively to the surgical ward. The Hospital also draws patients from neighboring Benin and Burkina Faso for surgical interventions. This emergency donation of ketamine will enable postponed interventions for complex childbirth cases, abdominal surgeries, heart surgeries, emergency and trauma interventions, and others to resume. "Only God knows how many lives this will save in our country," said Quality Assurance Project Program Director Maina Boucar.