This article was originally published on December 28, 2015.
Around the world, 400 million people lack basic health care. It's a staggering statistic, but numbers can only do so much to illustrate what it's like to wait for help that doesn't come. This is why the Waiting for Health Project called on 12 photographers in 12 countries to document the stories of a handful of those 400 million, "to break through the noise and put humanity back at the center of the conversation," as the project states.
Like today's global healthcare landscape, the photo series — an initiative of the 715-partner, The-Rockefeller-Foundation-supported Universal Health Coverage Coalition — offers reasons for both despair and hope. Photographer Sim Chi Yin chronicles the suffering of He Quangui, who attempted suicide to escape the pain of black lung disease contracted over years of toiling in unregulated Chinese gold mines. Thomas De Cian bears witness to Cambodia's progress toward health coverage for all. Martina Bacigalupo captures the delivery of a life-saving blood transfusion to a Burundian baby stricken by malaria, while Yoppy Pieter documents the death of an Indonesian boy whose lung collapsed due to vaccine-preventable infection.
"I really hope that this series makes people stop, just for one second, to consider the kind of access they have to medical care — and good medical care at that," photographer Sam Reinders, who took the series' photo of a young girl waiting in line at a Nepalese clinic, tells Refinery29. "Sitting in a plush doctor's room, air-conditioned, copies of glossy magazines easing the wait and an insurance company that will be picking up the bill (or at least a large portion of it) is something that should not be taken for granted." Of course, this rosy picture of healthcare access is far from a reality for all Americans, as Radhika Chalasani's photo of cash-strapped seniors who have crossed over the U.S. border into Mexico for more affordable health care attests.
"Health issues are a priority throughout the world — in particular in developing countries and among the poorest populations," adds Noriko Hayashi, who contributed a photo of her mother, who has health issues herself, caring for her ailing grandmother in Japan. "But they have become a pressing issue in developed societies as well, as is the case with Japan: 520,000 seniors are on waiting lists for nursing. It was really hard to find a nursing home for my grandmother, so this reality touches me personally."
Click through to view all 12 photos fromWaiting for Health, alongside captions from the project. Together, they represent the urgency of the need for universal health coverage not just in name, but in practice, and not just in poor countries, but around the world.