The Africa Mercy arrived in Cameroon in mid-August and anchored in the port city of Douala. Surgery on board our hospital ship began on September 4th. This is our first field service in Cameroon: we are so excited to bring hope and healing for many children and adults, through surgical care! Mercy Ships plans to provide over 3,000 life-changing surgeries onboard and treat over 8,000 dental patients.
Our hospital ship was welcomed on August 17th with the traditional Arrival Ceremony at the docks. The Africa Mercy and its crew were graciously welcomed by the Minister of Health, the Douala City Council and many other government representatives who joined key Mercy Ships personnel onboard. The 10-month field trip is under the patronage of the cameroonian First Lady, Madame Chantal Biya.
In Cameroon – a nation of over 24 million – there are approximately 21 hospital beds per 10,000 people, and 77 physicians per million people. Mercy Ships aims to partner with the Cameroonian Government to support local doctors with medical capacity building in order to improve healthcare infrastructure for future generations. For this very reason, we provide holistic healthcare training to Cameroonian professionals.
Surgery on board our hospital ship began on September 4th. The first patient coming up the gangway on hospital opening day was 11-year-old Justine, who received surgery to straighten her bowed legs. She was carried up the steps, but her dazzling smile shows a confidence that one day soon, she will be able to walk them down by herself. During this upcoming field service, the Africa Mercy plans to provide over 3,000 life-changing surgeries onboard.
For some of us, the Cameroon mission started already many months ago. Our Advance Team helped to organize and prepare everything for the success of our stay. Transforming our Hospital Out-Patient Extension (HOPE) Center has been part of these preparations: what once was a tired and derelict space is now a bright and welcoming home away from home for our patients! For many patients – some of whom travel for hours or even days to reach us – their stay here often bookends their Mercy Ships story. After the departure of the Africa Mercy, the facility will be used by the local hospital and continue serving as a medical center.
We have recruited more than 260 Cameroonians to form our ‘day crew’ for this field service. We are privileged to be able to have local people training and working alongside us. From housekeeping and dining room staff to mechanics and radiology assistants, these day crew help us to further bond with our host nation, cementing a partnership that will last. They are also our ‘language lifeline’ by offering translation and reassurance to our patients!