Ministers of Health agree on plan to increase organ donations and transplants in an effort to meet demand

2 Oct 2019

In 2016, over 53,000 transplants were carried out in the Americas. While this represents a 6.8% increase compared to 2015, it still does not meet current needs

Washington, D.C., 2 October 2019 (PAHO) - Ministers of Health of the Region of the Americas agreed today to implement a series of actions to increase equitable access to organ, tissue, and cell transplants. This initiative is based on voluntary donations aimed at meeting the growing demand for these treatments, improving the health conditions of the people who need them, and saving lives.

In 2016, over 53,000 transplants were carried out in the Americas, which is 6.8% more than in 2015, according to the Global Observatory on Donation and Transplantation (GODTof the World Health Organization (WHO). However, the number of organs is insufficient to meet demand, leaving thousands of people on waiting lists.

“Organ transplants are often effective not only in treating a disease, but they can also save costs to the health system,” said Carissa F. Etienne, Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). “This strategy is a road map to meet the growing demand for transplants caused by the increase in chronic diseases and longer life expectancy.”

In 2016, more than 182,000 people were on waiting lists for kidney transplants, and less than 10% of demand for liver transplants is currently met in the Region. Furthermore, there is a shortage of kidney specialists, with great variations in their availability, ranging from 2.1 per million people in Honduras to 50.8 per million in Uruguay.

As part of the agreed strategy and with PAHO’s support, countries will seek to increase the availability of organs, tissues, and cells by promoting unpaid voluntary donation. They will also strengthen their health authorities in efforts to expand equitable access to quality transplants while improving their legislation and oversight capacity in order to prevent illegal organ trafficking and “transplant tourism”.

The Strategy and Plan of Action on Donation and Equitable Access to Organ, Tissue, and Cell Transplants 2019-2030 was approved by PAHO Member States during its 57th Directing Council, which is taking place until 4 October in Washington, D.C.

Transplantation in numbers:

  • 53,345 solid organ transplants were performed in the Americas in 2016, nearly 40% of the world total.
  • The solid organ transplants most commonly performed in the Region were kidney transplants (33,378), followed by liver transplants (11,000).
  • Corneal transplants are the most frequent in the world and in the Region, where nearly 40,000 are performed each year.
  • There was a 6.8% increase in the organ transplantation rate between 2015 and 2016.
  • 25.5% of transplants in the Region in 2016 were from live donors, higher than 21.8% in 2015.
  • With 53.3 transplants per million people, the Americas is the region with the highest transplantation rate, followed by Europe.
  • In 2016, 64% of all kidney transplants in the Americas were performed in the United States and Canada.
  • More than 182,000 people were on waiting lists for kidney transplants in 2016.
  • Less than 10% of needs for liver transplants are currently met in the Region.
  • In Latin America, Uruguay leads in the donation of cadavers (16.8 per million people), followed by Brazil (14.2) and Argentina (12). Spain is the world leader (47).
  • The availability of kidney specialists ranges from 2.1 per million people in Honduras to 50.8 per million in Uruguay.