Our Work

What we do

Mercy Ships takes hospital ships to the world’s under-served poor, bringing hope, healing and healthcare.


The Mercy Ships volunteer crews relieve pain and suffering for thousands every year, and mentor hundreds of local healthcare workers to increase their capacity.

It is estimated 16.9 million people die globally each year from conditions requiring surgical care. 32% of all global deaths are a result of the lack of access to safe, affordable, and timely surgery.

Mercy Ships offers healthcare services without charge to improve the quality of life for people with disability, disfigurement, or disease in Sub-Saharan Africa, through better surgical outcomes and whole-person care.

Our medical capacity building programmes improve patient care by supporting local surgical systems, helping strengthen them to become more effective, efficient and responsive.

Work in Africa

An estimated ONE BILLION people lack access to even basic health care. They are plagued by preventable disease, untreated illnesses and neglected injuries. Even a simple toothache can become a life-threatening crisis. With the support and prayers of friends like you, we can say to the suffering men, women and children – Mercy is on its way!

Why Africa?

In many developing countries, even basic healthcare is out of reach. And in Africa, nearly 50 per cent of the people have no access to a hospital or doctor.

Children, teens, adults and the elderly suffer and die every day from curable or treatable causes. A staggering 6.6 million children under the age of five died in 2012 from treatable diseases – more than 18,000 children per day. (Source: WHO).

Many nations in Africa are ranked by the United Nations Human Development Index as the least developed nations on earth, with only two doctors per 10,000 people. New Zealand has 10 times that ratio.

A West African woman has a 1/16 chance of dying during pregnancy, it’s a 1/7150 risk in New Zealand. An estimated 70% of Africans live on less than NZ$2.25 each per day to meet all their needs; food, shelter, education and more.

The challenge is enormous but each day we are making a difference as we provide surgical and healthcare solutions. As we work alongside local partners, mentoring and training people in their healthcare arena, we are making a sustainable investment into improving the healthcare systems for the future.


Why a ship – and why us?

As 50% of the world’s population lives within 160km of the ocean, taking the world’s largest civilian hospital ship directly to the point of need, to people who would otherwise go without care, is a logical strategy to alleviating human suffering.

Taking a state-of-the-art, fully equipped and staffed, self-sufficient hospital into areas of extreme poverty means we can provide first class medical care in the midst of desperate conditions.

In the poorest parts of Africa, children suffer and die from treatable causes. Mercy Ships sails into these regions to provide first-rate medical care that saves lives.

Our volunteer medical teams remove tumours, give sight to the blind, correct clefts, straighten crooked limbs and more. Over 105,500 free surgical procedures have been performed for people in poverty since 1978.

The core values of Mercy Ships reflect a belief that every individual is made in the image of God, and worthy of a helping hand to alleviate their suffering

We follow the 2,000-year-old model of Jesus to provide hope and healing to the forgotten poor

Current field service

Senegal, West Africa.

Mercy Ships served the people of Senegal during 2019/20 until COVID-19 paused the field service. In January 2022 we fulfilled our promise to our patients and local health care colleagues, returning for 10 months to complete the surgical lists and medical mentoring commitments.

This nation is 3/4 the landmass of New Zealand with more than three times our population- 15.85 million people. Senegal is one of the most stable democracies in Africa with a long history of peacekeeping, but the population struggles with their quality of life at 168/189 on the lowest end of the UN Human Development Index.

Senegalese people are 96% Muslim, and speak French, Wolof and many other dialects. Senegal borders The Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali and Mauritania.