Health institutions of many low-income countries rely significantly on donations of medical equipment. These donations are generally made with good intentions; however, if the donations are not well planned and coordinated the outcomes are not always positive.


In some countries, nearly 80% of medical equipment is donated or funded by international donors or foreign governments (WHO technical series)

Why does this happen?

Donations often bypass the recipient institution’s selection and procurement systems.  This can mean that little consideration is taken of the following:

• Local requirements

• Burden of disease and level of care

• Number of users and maintenance personnel and their capabilities

• Purchase of consumables

• Availability of spare parts

• Availability of local technical expertise to provide maintenance (institutionally and through local equipment service providers)

• Electrical compatibility and infrastructure requirements (water, gas, etc.)

• Cultural differences and expectations on both sides of the donation

This is often due to a combination of the donor’s lack of awareness of particular challenges and needs, and poor communication between donors and recipients about these challenges and needs.

Guidance Documents

  • Managing the Medical Equipment Life Cycle. Produced by THET, this publication provides a detailed overview of the steps of the equipment life cycle and how Partnerships can integrate these steps into their project work.
  • Making Donations Overseas - Provides information for Health Partnerships on what and how to ship donations to your developing country partner. This document was prepared under the leadership of Brenda Longstaff from the Northumbria Healthcare – Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre Link to provide NHS links with practical guidance for shipping donated equipment to their partners overseas.
  • In 2010, the Catholic Hospital Association in the United States initiated a research project on Medical Surplus Donation. Based on this study they have developed a tool for assessing the practices and effectiveness of surplus recovery organizations (MSROs) and highlighted nine drivers — or nine key impact areas — that will allow MSROs to effectively serve more CHA members and create greater impact for the developing world.