Latest COVID19 news – update

24 April 2020

Whether you partner with Mercy Ships through prayer, financial support, or as a volunteer, you are a vital part of our family. Your dedication and generosity have enabled Mercy Ships to provide free, life-changing surgeries to people in need for more than 40 years.

During this time of stress and uncertainty, we value our relationship with you more than ever, which is why we want to provide you with complete transparency surrounding our ongoing decisions during the evolving COVID-19 pandemic

 Where is the Africa Mercy now?

Currently, the Africa Mercy is docked in Tenerife, Spain. Here, following the mandatory quarantine required on entry, and in accordance with the advice set out by Spanish authorities, the ship will undergo the planned annual routine maintenance.  Once the global COVID-19 situation subsides, it is our hope to return to Africa as soon as possible to continue our mission of bringing hope and healing to the forgotten poor.

How has the COVID-19 crisis affected volunteering with Mercy Ships?

Our ship’s crew hope to return to Africa as soon as it is feasible.  We are still taking online applications for crew to volunteer in the future with Mercy Ships so we can be ready to respond fully when the restrictions are lifted.   You can read more about how to volunteer here

How is Mercy Ships keeping in touch with partners in Africa and helping others at this time?

Through our Mercy Ships Africa Bureau and key contacts in Africa, we are exploring ways to best support our partner nations, crew, staff, volunteers, and day crew during these challenging times.

Currently, Mercy Ships is:

  • Transitioning key Medical Capacity Building programs to an online/remote delivery method to continue training medical professionals in Africa. These courses will focus on the care of critically ill patients, and teach skills that are integral to caring for both surgical patients and those infected with COVID-19.
  • Launching a preliminary six-week course for nurses and doctors managing the COVID-19 crisis. Participants in each facilitated learning group will improve their skills in identifying and managing critically ill patients (specifically for COVID-19 related illness) and applying personal mental health strategies to reduce risk of burnout during the crisis.
  • Providing continued support to the Gamal Dental School in Conakry, Guinea through remote online tools, and supporting renovation plans and facilities upgrades for the anaesthesia and dental classrooms.
  • Donating $150,000 to be used in the prevention and cure of COVID-19 cases in Senegal.
  • Additional equipment that was requested to help improve patient care was also donated to the Barthimée hospital in Senegal.
  • Donating $120,000 of medical supplies and PPE to partners in four African nations: Sierra Leone, Benin, Liberia, and Madagascar.
  • Donating medical supplies and masks to healthcare providers in both our Texas and Netherlands local support centres.

Will the Africa Mercy be used to bring relief during this crisis?

Although the Africa Mercy is a fully functional medical ship, it was designed as a surgical specialist unit and is not suited to provide the degree of care required for patients with highly contagious respiratory diseases such as COVID-19.

We depend on volunteers to operate the Africa Mercy. With current travel and other restrictions in place worldwide, it would be vastly challenging to arrange for our volunteers from 50 or more nations to travel to the ship.  Additionally, many of our medical volunteers have been asked to assist with the COVID-19 crisis in their home countries.

At this time, we remain supportive of our healthcare workers on the frontlines and patients suffering from this illness. Once this pandemic subsides, the suffering that patients in need of surgical intervention see every day will still be their reality.  They will be desperately waiting for our return, and we need your support now more than ever to continue bringing hope and healing.

Should I continue to support Mercy Ships?

Yes! As this crisis reaches wider and deeper than anyone could have predicted, it is even more important to support Mercy Ships.  What affects one of us, affects all of us.  Thank you for your ongoing commitment to help bring hope and healing to those with little or no access to vital healthcare. You can help us to strengthen healthcare system in Africa here

We pray for all those affected by COVID-19. We pray for wisdom for our world leaders to have the confidence and ability to deal with the situation as it continues to evolve.

 

March 30

The global COVID-19 situation has made it impossible for Mercy Ships to continue to carry out our surgical programs to the required standards while protecting against the possible spread of the virus. Therefore, in line with the measures taken by the President of Senegal and in consultation with the Ministry of Health, Mercy Ships has reviewed the activities associated with the Africa Mercy and made the decision to suspend the programmatic activities in Senegal.

Although the Africa Mercy is a medical ship, it is essentially a surgical specialist unit and is not suited to provide care for patients with highly contagious respiratory diseases. The current unprecedented situation has presented a unique operational challenge. With the global air transport shutdown, volunteer professionals were unable to come and serve on our vessel.  Additionally, many of our medical volunteers have been asked to assist with the COVID -19 crisis in their home countries.

We are now expediting the annual routine maintenance for the Africa Mercy with the aim to be back in Africa as soon as possible, and once the global COVID-19 situation allows, continuing our mission to bring hope and healing to the forgotten poor.

Our teams continue to evaluate the COVID-19 situation globally and research how we can best stand together with our partner nations, crew and staff in these challenging times. Actions taken include:

  • Working to transition key Medical Capacity Building programs to an on-line /remote delivery methodology in order to continue to train medical professionals in Africa. Specifically focused on content surrounding the care of critically ill patients.  These skills are integral to caring for both surgical patients and those with COVID -19 infections
  • Providing continued support to the Gamal Dental School capacity Building program by temporarily using remote on-line tools
  • Donation of USD $150,000.00 to the COVID-19 fund in Senegal to be used in the prevention and cure of COVID-19 cases
  • Repatriation of 180 or our crew, mostly medical professionals, back to their home countries
  • Donation of medical supplies from our logistic centre in the USA for use in local hospitals, fire departments, elderly homes, e.g.
  • Evaluation to donate medical and other supplies from our logistic centre in the Netherlands
  • Ongoing review of how best support global communities

For over 40 years, we focus on bringing hope and healing to those we serve. For the past 30 years, we have concentrated our efforts in Africa. During those three decades, we have worked to strengthen local healthcare systems.

We are encouraged by the good results we have realized through direct surgical care for patients and by training local healthcare professionals. Today these healthcare professional we trained in the past, are now frontline worker in the battle against COVID-19 in their respective countries.

As we face these challenging events, we would like to thank you for your ongoing prayers and support to our mission to bring hope and healing to the world’s forgotten poor.

FAQ’s

Have any COVID-19 infections been detected on the Africa Mercy?

Up to this point none of our patients nor crew onboard the Africa Mercy have presented with the COVID-19 infection. Crew shore leave was suspended and additional measures of hygiene and social interaction has been implemented in order to prevent infection onboard.

Why can’t the Mercy Ships be deployed to help against Coronavirus Spread?

Although the Africa Mercy is a hospital ship, it is essentially a surgical specialist unit. The vessel is not suited to take care of patients with a highly contagious respiratory disease.

Mercy Ships relies on a volunteer staffing model using professional medical volunteers from around the world. The current unprecedented situation has presented a unique operational challenge as many of our medical volunteers have been asked to assist with the COVID -19 crisis in their home countries. In addition, the global air transport shutdown has resulted in our inability to continue to operate the hospital facility safely.  Mercy Ships is also evaluating how the organization, given certain operational limitations, can be utilized to assist in the global COVID-19 response.

 How are the patients onboard?  What was accomplished in Senegal before the crisis hit?

The last patients and their caregivers left the vessel on March 23. Despite the suspension of our activities, we are grateful that during the Africa Mercy’s 8-month stay (we had planned to be in Senegal for  10 months) in the port of Dakar, Republic of Senegal, Mercy Ships provided over 1,400 life-changing surgeries onboard (from the planned 1,200-1,700). Volunteer medical professionals treated over 5,500 dental patients (we had planned for 4,000) at a land-based dental clinic as well as provided healthcare training to 1,270 local medical professionals (initial plans were from 1,000 to 1,500) through mentoring and courses in partnership with 17 hospitals throughout Senegal.

How are the patients who cannot have surgery now? 

This challenging situation worldwide means that some of our patients are now unable to have the surgery they had hoped for in Senegal. As we define options for our future programmatic activities in Africa, we take into account a possible return to Senegal to finish our mission once the restrictions ease.

What about the volunteers onboard?

After Mercy Ships reviewed the activities associated with the Africa Mercy and made the decision to suspend the programmatic activities in Senegal, no new patients were admitted. Following the decision not to take on further patients, a number of short-term crew volunteers and Senegalese day crew supported by Mercy Ships to return home to their countries and incoming volunteer travel cancelled. The crew onboard of the vessel today will sail the vessel to its next destination. We are grateful for their efforts in recent months in these uncertain times.

Is the Africa Mercy leaving Senegal and where is it going next?

Yes, the Africa Mercy is leaving Senegal two months earlier than planned to begin the ship’s yearly maintenance according to maritime regulations. Our aim is to use this advanced maintenance to bring the Africa Mercy back to Africa so that we can continue our mission to bring hope and healing to the forgotten poor once the restrictions ease.
Mercy Ships is also evaluating how, given our operational limitations, the ship can be utilized to assist in the global COVID-19 response

What can I do to support Mercy Ships at this time?

During this challenging season, we ask you to please pray for our crew and volunteers and for our offices around the world, many of whom are joining the ranks of those working from home and in lockdown situations within their countries. We also pray for our donors and friends around the world, knowing that these are uncertain times around the world. Your support, which is even more crucial now to help Mercy Ships so that we can continue provision of surgical care as soon as the situation permits.

Can I still reach the Mercy Ships Office in New Zealand?

Yes, the Mercy Ships New Zealand office is still available during office hours a telephone answering service being monitored at 0800637297.  If you leave a message with your query and full details, one of the Mercy Ships staff will call or email you back as soon as necessary.  Or you can email msnz@mercyships.org

Can I still visit the Mercy Ships office?

During the current pandemic, we have allowed or asked our staff to work from home as much as possible.  As the situation is changing weekly around the world, we request that contact can be made by telephone or email.

As we face these challenging events, we would like to thank you for your ongoing prayers and support to Mercy Ships and our mission to bring Hope and Healing to the world’s forgotten poor.

 

For questions or further information, please contact:

New Zealand communications manager, Sharon.walls@mercyships.org

or

International media liaison, diane.rickard@mercyships.org