Top Five Safe Surgery and Anesthesia Milestones in 2021

Lifebox looks at our top milestones from 2021 making surgery and anesthesia safer through tools, training, and partnerships.  

5. Stronger Teams, Safer Surgery

Stronger teams, safer surgery – the Lifebox 2021-24 Strategic Plan

As Lifebox entered its tenth year, we launched an ambitious new strategic plan to make every surgery safer. The theme of the 2021-24 Lifebox Strategic Plan Stronger Teams, Safer Surgery – puts multidisciplinary teamwork at the heart of our approach; targeting the most critical moments in the end-to-end surgical patient journey by increasing the quality and impact of our programs across three focus areas – safe anesthesia, teamwork, and surgical safety. This plan also set ambitious goals to reduce our footprint in high-income countries by investing in staff, leadership, and innovation in the regions where we work. Read about our commitments to tackle inequalities here

4. Saving Mothers’ Lives in Ethiopia 

Surgical team, Tikur Anbessa Teaching Hospital, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

We are working to improve the safety of cesarean sections by adapting our surgical infection reduction program – Clean Cut – partnering with ten maternity hospitals in Ethiopia. Infections and complications following C-sections are estimated to cause 15% of all maternal deaths in the country. More than 800 women have participated in the pilot so far, with up to 8,000 taking part by the end of the program. Read more about this work to improve maternal health here. This work is part of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Grand Challenges initiative, funded by UBS Optimus Foundation.

3. Clean Cut Scale and Impact

Clean Cut implementation team at C.B. Dunbar Maternity Hospital, Liberia

The results of the lasting impact of Lifebox’s surgical infection reduction program – Clean Cut – were published in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Surgery in November. In “Sustainability of a Surgical Quality Improvement Program at Hospitals in Ethiopia” the results demonstrate that, compared to baseline, hospitals maintained improvements in compliance with all six program infection prevention standards – indicating the lasting behavior changes achieved by Clean Cut.

This year we also scaled Clean Cut outside of Ethiopia for the first time, with partner hospitals in Liberia and Madagascar.

2.The Smile Train-Lifebox Capnography Project

Capnography monitoring, District Hospital, Kenya.

This year Smile Train and Lifebox launched work for a robust, easy to use, and affordable capnography device to improve anesthesia safety for children around the world. Capnography has been widely available in operating rooms in high-income countries for decades yet there is a lack of capnography availability throughout many low- and middle-income countries. Finding a robust capnography solution to address the global ‘capnography gap’ could see a significant improvement in the safety of anaesthesia practice worldwide. 

Read about this work here which is part of the Smile Train-Lifebox Safe Surgery and Anesthesia Initiative

The specifications build on the work of the World Federation of Anaesthesiologists (WFSA) Minimum Capnometer Specifications 2021 – A Guide for Health Care Decision Makers.


1. Lifebox Global COVID-19 Response

COVID-19 screening with donated Lifebox pulse oximeters to support COVID response in Afghanistan with the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

In 2021, Lifebox’s priority has remained supporting our partners on the COVID-19 frontlines with tools and strategies to provide safe surgical, anesthetic, and COVID-19 care. We worked to develop technical guidance and distributed personal protective equipment (PPE) and oxygen resources – including 7,400 pulse oximeters. As vaccine inequity leaves many healthcare providers on the COVID frontlines unprotected across the world, our work to minimize the risks for providers and patients is more critical than ever. Read about our global COVID-19 response here

Please support our work so Lifebox can continue to make an impact – saving lives through safer surgery and anesthesia.