Following a series of recent meetings between the Ministry of Health and Mercy Ships, the Africa Mercy® has officially been welcomed to return to Madagascar for her next field service. The hospital ship is planned to initially dock in the port of Toamasina in February 2024.
During this first 10-month field service, Mercy Ships will collaborate closely with the Ministry of Health with the aim to provide more than 1,150 free specialised surgeries as well as targeted training for healthcare professionals working in the surgical ecosystem.
Mercy Ships has already embarked on the beginning of a five-year country engagement plan that further strengthens the partnership between the organisation and Madagascar’s government and healthcare leadership. This includes carefully aligning with the country’s current strategic healthcare plan to ensure all planned programs best serve the people of Madagascar.
Dr. Lethicia Lydia Yasmine, secretary general for the Ministry of Health, Madagascar said:
“Madagascar faces a shortage of surgical support from both local and international partners, especially in the most vulnerable areas. We appreciate Mercy Ships’ approach in reaching underserved communities. As we open 28 district hospitals, each requiring at least two surgeons, we look forward to collaborating with Mercy Ships to strengthen our surgical capacity.”
The initiative aims to provide equitable access to medical care, extending beyond the inhabitants of Toamasina to individuals across the entire island. Mercy Ships is committed to covering travel expenses, ensuring that even those in remote areas can benefit from this service.
According to Nantenaina Rakotonirina, mayor of the urban commune of Toamasina, the city is also preparing to accommodate patients, emphasising the collaborative nature of this initiative to provide comprehensive care.
“We are very grateful to the government of Madagascar for welcoming us back to continue our partnership to deliver hope and healing to those who need it most,” shared Esperant Mulumba, Country Director for Mercy Ships in Madagascar. “Mercy Ships has a long and successful relationship with Madagascar, with our last field service in 2015. We are very thankful that we are able to partner with them again to transform more lives through surgery and training.”
The life-changing surgeries delivered will include tumour removal, cleft lip and palate correction, cataract removal, orthopaedic and reconstructive plastic surgery, and dental care. Patients with these specific concerns will be encouraged to attend screening days to receive appointments for their specific surgical needs. Patient selection teams are preparing to assess and register patients in multiple locations, in preparation for the ship’s arrival.
The ship’s programs also include post-operative consultations and psychosocial support to facilitate patients’ reintegration into their communities.
Beyond providing surgical care, Mercy Ships will collaborate with national and international partners to offer education and training across the surgical ecosystem. These programs will emphasise surgery, nursing, biomedical, sterile processing, and anaesthesia. The five-year partnership, which includes years of follow up after the hospital ship leaves, will focus on strengthening the surgical care system by investing in Madagascan healthcare professionals poised to impact this nation for years to come.
This field service will mark the fourth Mercy Ships visit to Madagascar since 1996, with the most recent visit taking place in 2015. During this last mission, Mercy Ships’ volunteer medical teams were able to bring life-changing transformation through providing 1,600 major surgeries and 29,000 dental operations, as well as mentoring more than 1,500 health professionals.
The 2024 field service also marks the first for the newly refitted Africa Mercy after she completes extensive maintenance and repair work in Durban, South Africa. Following renovations across the whole ship, an upgraded hospital, lab, and pharmacy mean the ship will be equipped and ready to serve patients and bring hope and healing anew.
There are many ways to partner with Mercy Ships during this exciting return to Madagascar, whether through supporting, volunteering, or praying. Learn more about how to get involved today!