The Africa Mercy® Arrives in Madagascar to Bring Hope and Healing Anew
On February 1, amid much joy and celebration, the newly refit Africa Mercy® hospital ship arrived in the port of Toamasina, Madagascar.
Welcomed by the government and Ministry of Health of Madagascar, the Africa Mercy is ready to bring transformative hope and healing anew over the coming 10 months. The ship’s arrival was heralded by dancing, traditional music, waving, and cheers by both those on board and those watching eagerly on the dock. The moment has been long-awaited by crew and the country alike, with nearly a decade passing since a Mercy Ships vessel last visited Madagascar from 2014-2016.
Life-Changing Surgical Care and Surgical Education Ahead
During this coming field service, the international volunteer crew on board hope to bring lasting change to Madagascar’s surgical care systems through a series of long-term education, training, and advocacy (ETA) projects designed to equip and empower the country’s healthcare workforce. In addition to training and mentoring opportunities, Mercy Ships will offer safe, free surgeries on board across a range of surgical specialties, including maxillofacial and ear, nose, and throat; general; pediatric specialized general; pediatric orthopedic; cataract; and reconstructive plastics.
The Path to Welcoming Patients on Board
With the ship now docked in port, work is underway to prepare for the first surgeries to take place at the end of May. In the coming weeks, crew will begin running patient registration and selection in different locations across the country, ensuring that a variety of those in need of surgical care will have the opportunity to be considered for surgery on board. As these selections won’t be taking place on board, the Malagasy population are being urged to wait to hear on local radio stations about small regional patient selection opportunities in their area for certain conditions.
Meanwhile, Mercy Ships will continue to lay the foundation for a strong ETA program in Madagascar by collaborating with the Ministry of Health to develop in-country partnerships and identify opportunities for collaboration and learning. Through the ETA strategy, the organization aims to increase the number of surgical providers, provide training across the surgical ecosystem, develop sustainable educational programs, establish a network of healthcare providers, and advocate for the importance of surgery in healthcare globally.
The ship’s arrival comes during a timely season in Madagascar, a country still recovering from the devastating effects of COVID-19. Due in part to the rugged terrain and scope of the country, only 20% of the population can access surgical services within a two-hour timeframe, and 95% of patients would face financial ruin if they required surgery. With a scarcity of physicians, approximately 20 for every 100,000 people, the prospect of receiving necessary surgical treatment seems unattainable for many. This means that for most of the patients who will come on board the Africa Mercy in the coming months, safe surgery will bring not only transformative physical healing, but also serve as the answer to long-held hope.
Over the course of prior visits, Mercy Ships collaborated with the government and Ministry of Health to provide a total of more than 6,425 surgical procedures and over 52,000 dental procedures. In addition to delivering life-changing surgical and dental care, Mercy Ships has a longstanding commitment to education, having trained 2,019 healthcare professionals in Madagascar previously.
This field service marks the hospital ship’s return after spending 2023 undergoing an extensive refit in South Africa. During this time, the vessel, which first joined the Mercy Ships fleet in 2007, received renovations in both the interior and exterior. Key projects included renovating the onboard hospital, pharmacy, and lab, as well as the dining room, galley, and information systems, equipping the hospital ship to serve patients with an even greater level of quality and efficiency.
Find your own place on board
Share this article:
Receive here our monthly volunteer Mercy Ships opportunities email