What we do, when the hospital ship is not nearby
Mercy Ships was created over 40 years ago in order to provide an answer to the need for medical, foremostly surgical, treatment in developing countries. The founders had a clear concept that hospital ships would be the ideal instruments to bring hope and healing to the countries we serve.
Our scope has increased and, today, not all of our activities in Africa are dependent on a hospital ship mooring nearby. Over recent years, we have developed a strategy based on “Country Engagement Plans” that enable us to be active in more than one place; with smaller projects adapted to the specific needs of specific places, according to the requests of our friends and partners in various African countries. It is really gratifying to be able to tell our long-time friends and partners: “Yes, we are coming!”
Diverse and targeted support
Our Country Engagement Plans focus on three pillars:
1. Direct Medical Services,
2. Medical capacity building, and
3. Health systems relationship building.
The field of “Direct Medical services” (= our surgical operations) almost always relies on the presence of our ships and their state-of-the-art hospital infrastructure (the only exception to this is when Mercy Ships volunteer surgery teams operate in the clinics of our partners across Africa). However, “Medical capacity building” and “Health systems relationship building” can thrive independently.
Even during the pandemic
The pandemic has shown that this strategy brings an additional advantage: with smaller and sustainable projects in the area of Medical Capacity Building, we can switch to online or hybrid forms to deploy our teaching, mentoring, etc. and thus adapt to the situation in case of impending travel restrictions, etc.
Currently, Mercy Ships is at work in 8 countries all over Africa – even in land-locked countries like Niger and Uganda.
On World Clubfoot Day 2021 (June 3rd), the Albert Royer National Hospital Center in Dakar, Senegal celebrated in a very special way — by inaugurating their brand new clubfoot clinic. During our field service in Senegal, Mercy Ships partnered with the hospital to train local professionals in the Ponseti method, a highly regarded clubfoot treatment method. It's an honor to share this vision for quality, specialized care and free clubfoot treatment.
As a long-time Mercy Ships volunteer, Eliphaz Essash leads our nutritional agriculture training programs, better known as “Food for Life.” He’s currently leading a course in Benin that will train participants to properly care and package their crops, while also equipping them to train others in their home communities.
Freedom From Fistula is an NGO that focuses on serving women suffering from obstetric fistula injuries through increased access to surgery, education, and empowerment. We’re honored to continue supporting their life-changing mission in Madagascar and Sierra Leone through funding and infrastructure projects.
In 2020, Mercy Ships donated more than 1 million units of personal protective equipment (PPE), including surgical gowns, goggles, face masks, gloves and infrared thermometers, which were delivered to Benin, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Madagascar, Republic of Congo, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo).
In Guinea, our dental training program with Gamal Abdel Nasser University remains in full swing. We’re continuing to equip the next generation of dentists with the skills and resources they need to change the dental care landscape in their country. While in training, students are supervised by mentors, but after the program they will be able to serve patients all across the country on their own.
Dr. Gcobani Tuswa is an ophthalmologist who was the first trainee of our vision program in South Africa. As a trainee in 2009, Dr. Tuswa said "though it is difficult to determine my future, I am focused on being rurally based and operating at a high volume." And that is exactly what Dr. Tuswa is doing now. Today, he runs the only eye specialist clinic in his area of Queenstown, South Africa, bringing care to people who would otherwise lack access.
In early 2021, long-time Mercy Ships volunteer surgeon Dr. Tertius Venter spent six weeks sharing his skills with a CURE International hospital in Niger. In addition to treating patients in need of plastic reconstructive surgery, Dr. Tertius also helped to train other medical professionals.
We are currently partnering with CURE International to continue bringing hope and healing. Several long-term Mercy Ships volunteers — like Dr. Sarah Kwok, an anesthesiologist from the U.K. – are bringing their skills and experience to serve patients in new ways.
In Liberia, our team continues to partner with other nonprofits to strengthen the local healthcare system in tangible ways. We recently celebrated the launch of the Clean Cut project, an endeavor led by UK-based charity Lifebox, which seeks to improve the quality systems of hospitals in Liberia.