SOUTH AFRICA—After a thorough service, the hospital ship Africa Mercy has left the Port of East London in South Africa for a ten-month mission in Madagascar.

The vessel has been undergoing  through an eight-month restoration at Durban’s Dormac Shipyard, which included substantial repairs and maintenance to improve its longevity and the quality of medical services delivered.

The Africa Mercy restoration included technology upgrades, improved operating theatre functionality, and collaboration with Mercy Ships’ latest hospital ship, the Global Mercy, presently serving Sierra Leone.

These improvements will make it easier for local doctors to receive the necessary training, helping the country’s healthcare professionals thrive.

The rehabilitation also included modernizing the galley, upgrading the elevator system, and remodeling cabin spaces to better serve individuals in need of surgical treatment.

Brenda van Straten, Director of Mercy Ships, South Africa, stressed that the refit is part of a larger five-year plan to ensure the Africa Mercy can continue providing life-changing surgery and training for the next decade.

In connection with the ship’s restoration, Mercy Ships held eight Safer Anesthetics from Education (SAFE) workshops in South Africa, impacting 236 health professionals.

These courses focused on rural and public hospitals, addressing the critical need for junior doctors to apply practical methods while handling patients.

58 South African anaesthetists worked with Mercy Ships to provide this training.

The Africa Mercy will now serve in Madagascar as part of a five-year commitment to Education, Training, and Advocacy programs, as well as a surgical schedule encompassing a variety of specialities.

Dr. Lethicia Lydia Yasmine, Secretary General of the Ministry of Health in Madagascar, emphasized the country’s surgical support deficit and expressed gratitude for Mercy Ships’ approach to addressing neglected populations.

She went on to mention that they are in the process of opening 28 district hospitals, each with at least two surgeons, and that they look forward to working with Mercy Ships to increase their surgical capacity. 

Madagascar has limited access to surgical procedures, with only 20% of the population able to do so within two hours and up to 95% suffering financial ruin if surgery is required.

The current physician-to-population ratio of around 20 physicians per 100,000 people complicates matters, making surgical care appear out of reach for many individuals.

This ten-month field deployment is the fourth since 1996, with the most recent coming in 2015–2016.

Mercy Ships worked with the government and the Ministry of Health to provide 6,425 surgical procedures and more than 52,000 dental procedures throughout the preceding three field deployments.

In addition to medical interventions, Mercy Ships has long been committed to education, having taught a total of 2,019 healthcare professionals in Madagascar to date.

Mercy Ships is actively recruiting volunteers for a variety of positions, including project directors, clinical training coordinators, informatics specialists, ward nurses, IT professionals, cooks, teachers, plumbers, and electricians. 

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