In its Guidelines for Donations of Health Care Equipment, the WHO says:

The sense among some biomedical engineers and health care professionals who have extensive work experience in these countries is that less than 30%, perhaps as low as 10%, of used equipment ultimately becomes operational.

The number is quite vague and unreferenced. What percentage of used/refurbished medical equipment donated to developing countries ultimately becomes operational?

  • Are you expressing skepticism or mere curiosity?
    – Oddthinking
    Apr 24, 2015 at 15:51
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    @Oddthinking I find 10% to be quite low to the point of making me skeptical. Apr 24, 2015 at 15:55
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    A friend of mine from the UK works about three quarters of the year in an third world country as a general practitioner and at the very least I can confirm that a LOT of complex medical equipment that gets donated isn't put into actual use due to lack of necessary parts, knowledge and/or money to keep it running. Do also note that your claim only expresses the real life experience of engineers and health care professionals and not actual research. I think you're better of not making a big deal out of the specific numbers. Apr 25, 2015 at 0:06
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    One side note: The claim is that less than 30% ultimately becomes operational (10% is only a guess). Apr 26, 2015 at 5:25

1 Answer 1


In 2011, Lora Perry and Robert Malkin wrote:

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.

In 2017, Karin Diaconu and her collaborators wrote that:

Forty to 70 % of medical devices and equipment in low- and middle-income countries are broken, unused or unfit for purpose; this impairs service delivery to patients and results in lost resources. Undiscerning procurement processes are at the heart of this issue.

The Catholic Health Association reports that 90% of member hospitals report donating supplies due to expiration; 60% member hospitals report they donate broken equipment; and yet only about 8% work with a medical supply and recovery organization with the capabilities to ensure donations are useful and appropriate.

Source: CHA Medical Surplus Donation Study: How Effective Surplus Donation Can Relieve Human Suffering, Catholic Health Association of the United States, April 2011

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