What is Mercy Ships?

About 5 billion people worldwide do not have adequate access to essential surgery.

Every year, Mercy Ships provides more than 2,000 free surgical interventions and 8,000 dental treatments to those without access in developing countries. Mercy Ships also works with host nations to help fill the gaps in healthcare systems through training opportunities and infrastructure projects.

Since 1990, Mercy Ships has focused most of its efforts towards the African continent. Through the deployment of the two world’s largest civilian hospital ships, the Global Mercy and the Africa Mercy¸ Mercy Ships offers holistic support to developing nations striving to make healthcare accessible for all.

An enormous challenge

A large majority of the world’s population does not have the benefit of a nearby hospital or lack the financial means to seek treatment. According to a recent study, 5 million human beings do not have sufficient access to essential surgery (source).

What could be worse than a dirty waiting room and a dilapidated operating theater with well-worn equipment in a state of deterioration? For many without adequate care, a mild injury could be transformed into a fatal illness.

Mercy Ships collaborates with governments and the World Health Organisation to help respond to this challenge.

Action humanitaire - de jeunes patients orthopédiques en attente de leur opération

Our answer: hospital ships

Over 50% of the world’s population lives within 100 miles of the coast. Our ships deliver a state-of-the-art hospital to port cities, providing a controlled, safe and clean environment for patients and volunteers.

The Africa Mercy and the Global Mercythe two largest non-governmental hospital ships in the world, are crewed by 400-600 volunteers from around the world and brings hope and healing to hundreds of thousands of people who could never have believed it possible.

Urgent needs and lasting impact

Our action is based on two priorities:

  • Mercy Ships serves the dire and immediate needs of the poorests populations. More than 108,000 surgeries have been performed since 1978.
  • Mercy Ships works with host nations to help fill the gaps in healthcare systems. We provide mentoring and training opportunities for professionals. More than 50,300 people have attended our training.

Video about Mercy Ships

Our programs

Mercy Ships increases access to healthcare around the world. Working with qualified local and international partners, Mercy Ships programs offer global support to developing countries, seeking to make healthcare accessible to all.

Surgical and medical care


Dental / Oral health

Mercy Ships aims to prevent and reduce the effects of a lack of oral healthcare by providing dental treatment and dental hygiene education and training.


Orthopedic programme

Mercy Ships trains local surgeons in Ponseti casting, the “universal standard” in non-invasive clubfoot correction, and provides free surgical intervention for musculoskeletal conditions, neglected orthopaedic trauma and joint diseases. To help maintain correction, Mercy Ships provides physical therapy onboard and also trains local partners in how to manufacture braces.


Plastic Reconstructive Surgery

Birth defects, burns and illness often cause deformities we correct through surgeries; including burn-scar contractures, benign tumours, chronic ulcers, combined fingers and many others.


Ophthalmic care

Our ophthalmic surgeons perform free cataract operations, restoring sight to the blind. Additionally, doctors correct pterygium, strabismus and eyelid deformities and replace painful or disfiguring blind eyes with prostheses. In addition, Mercy Ships trains local surgeons and healthcare professionals, building the capacity of the national eye care system.


Maxillofacial Surgery

Through corrective and reconstructive maxillofacial surgeries, our surgeons relieve deformities caused by physical conditions such as tumours, cleft lip, cleft palate and noma.


Gynecologic surgery

Support and medical care is provided for women who have suffered childbirth injuries. We provide extremely specialised surgery, continuing the recovery process through education and social activities.


General Surgery

Our surgeons reduce the effects of neglected trauma, disease and congenital conditions by providing general surgeries for conditions such as hernias and goiters.


Palliative care

Palliative care is an approach that improves the quality of life of patients and their families facing the difficulties associated with life-threatening illness.

Local medical capacity building programs


Medical infrastructure renovations

Together with local leaders, governments and the national ministries of health, development teams assess healthcare needs in local hospitals and design and implement renovation projects.

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Africa in our focus

In West and Sub-Saharan Africa, 93% of people lack access to surgical care. On average, there are two doctors per 10’000 inhabitants, compared to 32 in Europe, according to the World Health Organization.

For this reason, Mercy Ships is focussing its efforts on the continent of Africa and contributes to bringing a lasting change..

« Je félicite Mercy Ships du fond du cœur pour ses efforts visant à apporter, par son travail en faveur du développement, des changements durables dans un monde plein de misère. Mercy Ships est fidèle à sa vision de faire revivre le continent africain en apportant l’espoir et la guérison. [...] J’admire la vision et la mission de Mercy Ships et vous invite à soutenir avec moi leur travail honorable et à contribuer à faire du monde un lieu meilleur. »