The first patient to undergo surgical treatment on Africa Mercy since its return to Africa has been welcomed aboard. Docked in the autonomous port of Dakar since February 1st, this floating hospital has resumed its original mission to provide free surgeries and medical training on the continent after a 22-month pause caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The first admission of patients has taken place just two weeks after the ship’s return to the continent. Surgeries will be ongoing through November this year.
A young mother named Sokhna is the first patient to undergo a maxillofacial surgery for a cleft lip. From southern Senegal, she had received an appointment card during a previous field visit and was one of many who have been waiting eagerly for the ship’s return. Sokhna said she was not feeling nervous about coming on the ship today for surgery: “I feel just peace and joy,” she stated. Sokhna and her husband have a one-year-old baby. They work as farmers, and Sokhna spends most of her time tending her home. She said she is looking forward most to the moment her husband sees her cleft lip repaired.
During the last months of 2021, the Mercy Ships patient selection team travelled across Senegal in collaboration with the Chief Medical Officers of the fourteen regions to revisit formerly scheduled patients and see new patients to arrange their next appointments on the ship. For the next ten months, a thousand surgeries are scheduled to take place abroad Africa Mercy in Dakar and nearly 750 healthcare providers are expected to receive medical training in various specialties.
Mercy Ships uses hospital ships to deliver free healthcare services, capacity building, and sustainable development to those with limited access in the developing world. For more than 30 years, Mercy Ships has concentrated its efforts in Africa. In particular, Mercy Ships has focused efforts within West and sub-Saharan Africa where 93% of the population are deprived of access to safe surgical care. Mercy Ships surgeons perform operations such as cleft lip and palate repair, cataract removal, orthopedic, facial reconstruction, burn contracture release, pediatric, general, and obstetric fistula repair which are deemed life-changing procedures.
Mercy Ships also works together with countries in West and Central Africa to strengthen healthcare systems through enhancing skills, providing equipment, training and improving healthcare infrastructure. In Senegal, Mercy Ships is partnering with the Ministry of Health to provide healthcare training to medical personnel in the country. ‘’Although Senegal has a solid healthcare system in place, there is still a need for capacity building and surgeries especially in the rural areas where approximately half of Senegal’s population (around 8.8 million people) lives and access to healthcare is still challenging for many patients,’’ highlighted Dr. Miriam John.
In 2022, Mercy Ships celebrates thirty years of partnership in Africa, a milestone that will be commemorated on the annual May 25 Africa Celebration Day. During this event, which will bring together African partner nations and heads of state, Mercy Ships will focus on establishing a clear roadmap towards safer surgery in Africa.