Creating Lasting Healing

Posted on July 9, 2019 /

Mercy Ships Medical Capacity Building Program

Mafoudiya, cleft lip patient, on the dock before surgery.

Of the seven billion people on the planet, five billion of them do not have access to safe, timely, and affordable surgery. For nearly two-thirds of the world’s population, the possibility of healing is something they may never see. Most hospitals in sub-Saharan Africa operate with limited resources, in many cases without electricity, clean water, or adequate staff. Combined with the fact that one-third of the global burden of disease requires surgery or anesthesia, the need is quite obvious.

In response to these staggering numbers, Mercy Ships has been providing free surgical care for over 40 years. But, in addition to providing medical care and life-transforming surgeries repairing cleft lips and palates, removing cataracts and tumors, and helping burn victims heal, we also work to help nations strengthen their own healthcare delivery system through essential capacity building projects — launched in cooperation with the nations we serve and tailored to their specific needs.

Mercy Ships volunteers partner with local medical professionals to teach important skills such as pain management, essential surgical techniques, safe surgery training, and so much more. This training contains practical and relevant projects that demonstrate and impart knowledge, skills, and a compassionate, professional attitude to each participant. We are seeing first-hand the effects of those programs during our field service in Conakry,
Guinea. During a screening this year, our team saw fewer cases of cleft lips and palates than they were expecting. This decreasing number is due partially to the previous mentoring that took place on the Africa Mercy two years ago — since then, over 323 surgeries have been conducted by local surgeons.

“Depending on what stats you look at, every three to ten minutes, a child is born with a cleft lip or palate,” Dr. Gary Parker, Chief Medical Officer, and Maxillofacial Surgeon said. “It’s a major public health issue.”

Mercy Ships Medical Capacity Building Program works to combat these issues by providing local participants with training that they are able to bring back to their communities. These programs allow locals to take ownership of their own healthcare landscape and have a tangible impact on their own nations’ well-being.

“People have told me that doing any kind of mentoring in poor countries just doesn’t work, but I beg to differ,” Dr. Parker said. “We are here in one of the poorest nations on earth and it is working. They are taking care of their own people. I’m very excited about that.”

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