Effectiveness of medical equipment donations to improve health systems: how much medical equipment is broken in the developing world?

Med Biol Eng Comput. 2011 Jul;49(7):719-22. doi: 10.1007/s11517-011-0786-3. Epub 2011 May 20.


It is often said that most of the medical equipment in the developing world is broken with estimates ranging up to 96% out of service. But there is little documented evidence to support these statements. We wanted to quantify the amount of medical equipment that was out of service in resource poor health settings and identify possible causes. Inventory reports were analyzed from 1986 to 2010, from hospitals in sixteen countries across four continents. The UN Human Development Index was used to determine which countries should be considered developing nations. Non-medical hospital equipment was excluded. This study examined 112,040 pieces of equipment. An average of 38.3% (42,925, range across countries: 0.83-47%) in developing countries was out of service. The three main causes were lack of training, health technology management, and infrastructure. We hope that the findings will help biomedical engineers with their efforts toward effective designs for the developing world and NGO's with efforts to design effective healthcare interventions.

Publication types

  • Editorial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biomedical Technology
  • Developing Countries*
  • Equipment Failure / statistics & numerical data*
  • Equipment and Supplies, Hospital / standards*
  • Equipment and Supplies, Hospital / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • International Cooperation*
  • Medically Underserved Area