While we are preparing the Africa Mercy® and the Global Mercy™ to help many more people, we continue to serve, train, build, and partner through transformational projects across the continent. Our projects span from biomedical anaesthesia equipment training in Liberia and surgical care in hospitals in Niger and Uganda, to partnerships to fund surgical care and education in Madagascar — and much more!
Surgeries and Training Continue
As the world changed course to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, we also needed to adapt, and we did. As we temporarily paused surgical programs on board the Africa Mercy, we took the opportunity to ramp up our programs and sustain our impact throughout the pandemic. Although we are only halfway through 2021, the impact has already been incredible.
So far this year, we performed more than 380 surgical procedures and have facilitated more than 25,000 participant training hours for 288 trainees who will go on and transform even more lives of the people, communities, and countries. We are also growing and expanding our medical training services. We plan for 150,000 training hours this year, which is more than double the amount of 2019.
Three Ways We Meet the Greatest Needs
The work our volunteers and partners are doing is still very much needed. The Lancet Global Surgery 2030 Report states that an estimated 16.9 million lives are lost globally each year from conditions requiring surgical care. This translates to more than 32% of all global deaths. The amazing nations and people that make up the continent of Africa currently carry the bulk of the world’s poverty and disability burden, with over 93% of the population of sub-Saharan Africa lacking access to safe, timely, and affordable surgery. In Africa, Mercy Ships works towards the most effective change where the need is greatest.
That’s why we are fighting for quality of life for people with disability, disfigurement, or disease in Africa, through better surgical outcomes and whole person care. We do so by decreasing the burden of unmet surgical need, training local healthcare professionals, and collaborating with countries and organisations.
Decreasing Surgical Need
The first way we achieve this goal is through our Direct Medical Services, which offers free surgeries and post-operative care, predominantly through our hospital ships but also through our partnerships and in-country programs. By collaborating with local partners, we were able to send several long-time volunteers to share their skills and experience with hospitals across Africa. An example of that is Mercy Ships volunteer Dr. Sarah Kwok, who provided anaesthesia care and training at the CURE Children’s Hospital of Uganda.
“The children often have complex neurological problems, which makes caring for them challenging. By walking alongside the team here, we are setting high standards of care and ensuring the patients get the very best they deserve. The team is transforming lives and giving patients a future filled with hope and expectations of a normal life,” said Dr. Kwok.
Training Local Healthcare Professionals
Our Medical Capacity Building programs seek to improve patient outcomes by supporting surgical systems to become more effective, efficient, and responsive. By strengthening the capacities of the surgical system, we can sustainably improve the quality of life for people in need. We align with each host nation’s goals to focus on health workforce capacity building, international best practice, quality improvement processes, infrastructure improvements. Our Medical Capacity Building programs also include mental health, palliative care, and nutritional agriculture.
Amadou is one of the current dental students at the Gamal Abdel Nasser University who is training in the Mercy Ships dental clinic in Guinea. The clinic and training there is a welcome addition to the curriculum.
“We used to see dental procedures only in books and videos. Today we have these instruments in our department, which makes us so proud.”
Many of the people trained in our programs go on to build a sustainable impact in their nation’s healthcare systems. A number of these have remained partners with Mercy Ships throughout the years. These individuals are our Heroes of Healthcare, using their acquired skills and support from the organisation to provide safe and affordable surgical care in their communities. Several have also gone on to build training programs and surgery centres, further strengthening the health care infrastructure in their nations. Among those we’ve highlighted in our Heroes of Healthcare series include Dr. Odry Agbessi, Benin’s first reconstructive plastic surgeon, and Professor Raphiou Diallo, a maxillofacial surgeon in Guinea.
Collaborating With Countries
Our activities support national and local health systems to better understand and respond to the surgical needs of their populations long-term. By partnering with our host nations, we can collectively improve quality of life and reduce unmet surgical needs. We collaborate with key decision makers in host nations to identify areas of need within the surgical care system and implement policy and practice changes that will encourage access to safe, affordable, and timely surgery.
Join Us in Transforming Lives
We envision a world where everyone who is suffering from disability, disfigurement, or disease has access to quality, and affordable surgical treatment. That is why we continue expanding our work in Africa.
Want to join us in our mission? Discover more about our volunteer positions and find your place on board at mercyships.org.au/volunteer!