7-month-old patient received cleft lip surgery onboard world’s largest nonprofit hospital ship. For more than 40 years, the charity that was founded in Switzerland has been offering free medical care and training local healthcare professionals in developing countries.
As the international nonprofit Mercy Ships commemorates its 40-year legacy, the organization marked another major milestone: the 100’000th free life-transforming surgical procedure provided to a patient in need1.
On May 16, a baby born with a debilitating cleft lip in Guinea has received free surgery from international Mercy Ships volunteers. 7-months old Aissata was born with a cleft lip, but now has a new smile!
“I have always been very worried about her future and what would happen to her if I didn’t get her the surgery she needs,” said Aissata’s mother, Hassanatou (Ha–SANA–tu). “But now that she has come here to the ship, I am no longer worried.”
Aissata is fortunate to have had her cleft lip repaired as an infant. In the developed world, the condition typically is treated in infancy. But in places with limited access to surgery, many children simply cannot get treatment. The condition can lead to malnutrition if infants are unable to nurse, and it can lead to social exclusion or stigmatization as the children grow older. Thanks to her free treatment from Mercy Ships, Aissata won’t have to face those challenges.
“Seeing Aissata’s new smile after her surgery is an image of the hope and healing we are working to provide for thousands of people in Africa who are without access to surgical care,” Mercy Ships founder Don Stephens said.
A response to the Global Surgical crisis
Aissata traveled with her mother approximately 350 kilometers to receive the surgery on the hospital ship the Africa Mercy, which has provided free surgeries to more than 2’100 people in Guinea since arriving in August. Their family is among the world’s estimated 5 billion people who do not have access to safe, affordable, timely surgery. In sub-Saharan Africa specifically, 93 percent of the population can’t get the surgery it needs.2
Mercy Ships addresses this global surgery crisis within Africa by sending hospital ships staffed by volunteers to the places where surgeons are needed most. These surgeons also train local medical professionals who will stay in their home countries, effecting change long after Mercy Ships departs. Mercy Ships has touched more than 2.7 million lives since 1978.
Dr. David Chong, a plastic surgeon from Australia, is one of nearly 400 volunteers currently serving onboard the hospital ship. Chong has been dedicated to transforming lives for the world’s forgotten poor, and he helped lead the operation for Aissata.
“Being part of this milestone is humbling, especially when you think about the incredible legacy that Mercy Ships has built over the past 40 years by healing thousands of patients like Aissata,” Chong said. “So many other volunteers have helped change lives for the better, and I’m proud to contribute to this powerful work.”
After Mercy Ships completes its fourth surgical visit in Guinea in June, the Africa Mercy will sail for Senegal in August.
Mercy Ships terminera sa quatrième mission en Guinée en juin 2019 ; en août, le navire-hôpital Africa Mercy se rendra à Dakar, au Sénégal, pour une nouvelle mission de 10 mois.
1 – One patient can receive multiple surgical procedures, including in these areas: maxillofacial, plastic reconstructive, gynecological, pediatric orthopedic, ophthalmic and general surgeries.