When the world feels uncertain, we look for the good. When we realize the healthcare systems are fragile, we look for security. When we feel that our health is at risk, we look for the helpers. Today is World Health Day — a day set aside by the World Health Organization (WHO) to focus on the impact quality medical care has on the world around us. Today, we want to take a moment to acknowledge those who are on the frontlines taking cares of others.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the healthcare environment. It affects all of us. Our social lives, daily routines, family outings, work, the economy and especially those who have contracted the virus. In the midst of all of this stress and uncertainty, our healthcare workers are doing everything they can to take care of others. This year’s theme of World Health Day, “Year of the Nurse and the Midwife” has never seemed so fitting. Nurses and midwives spend their lives providing vital health services — especially in times like these when our healthcare workers around the world respond by loving and serving others who need it most.

For over 40 years, Mercy Ships has acknowledged the fragility of healthcare systems around the world. Healthcare professionals onboard our hospital ships have come from more than 50 countries around the world. And today we want to take a moment to lift them up.

It’s encouraging that when there’s a need, this remarkable group of people are quick to respond. We often talk about how lives have been transformed onboard our ships. Those transformations are dependent on many processes, but the role our healthcare professionals serve is priceless. Even though we know that together we care and that together we are Mercy Ships, we couldn’t do what we do without the helpers who are there to care for those who are most vulnerable.

“Mercy Ships creates the opportunity to use your specific skills to bring something important to a country that is not available there. This is done without taking an opportunity away from the local population,” Christina van der Zande, volunteer Palliative Care Nurse Team Leader, said. We fulfill an immediate need by supplementing the care available in the country with our specialized surgical care, post-op care, and palliative care. And, at the same time, we want to work ourselves out of a job by training others through our various Medical Capacity Building programs.”

Our volunteers do so much to help support the healthcare systems of the countries we serve. And while providing life-changing surgeries to those in need is a vital part of the Mercy Ships mission, for patients like Koumba, it’s the difference between a life in continuous pain or a life pursuing her passion.

For over 16 years, Koumba has been serving in her village, bringing new life into the world as a midwife. But about five years ago, her future took an unexpected shift when she noticed a lump starting to develop on her neck. Even with her years of medical experience, Koumba couldn’t access the surgical care she needed. Without an operation, she was fearful of the growing goiter, which made it more difficult for her to do the work she loved.

Koumba was thrilled when she heard about the possibility of surgery onboard the Africa Mercy. She quickly traveled to the hospital ship in search of healing.

“My whole village is praying for me — they all want me to get help here so that I can keep helping them,” she said. “I want to be able to keep doing this work. There is nothing like it.”

While onboard the ship, Koumba received surgery to remove the painful goiter and was soon on the road to recovery.

“This surgery has brought me so much happiness,” she said. “I can move without pain now. When I go back to the village, I’ll be able to work more than before…I gave help, and I received help. This is happiness.”

There are hundreds of stories like Koumba’s whose lives were forever changed, but none of them would be possible without those who stand beside us — the dedicated volunteers who give of their time and their abilities and our partners, people who give of their resources generously. When we all come together, we are able to provide hope and healing to the forgotten poor. 

“I’ve been working in Africa for more than 35 years, and you see people lose their life because they didn’t have access to a simple antibiotic or because they couldn’t afford surgery,” Rosa Whitaker, President of Mercy Ships, said. “So we’re here to help. We’re here to partner. We’re here to provide hope. We’re here to collaborate. We’re here to serve.”

In times of uncertainty, we look for the good. When healthcare systems are fragile, we look for security. When our health is at risk, we look for the helpers. While acknowledging these emotions, we also believe in HOPE. We’re not alone. Together we love, together we give, together we care, together we overcome. Thank you for your ongoing support, your prayers, and for your generous hearts. We look forward to reaching even more people in need and increasing medical capacity worldwide in the coming years. Together we are Mercy Ships!



About Mercy Ships:

Mercy Ships uses hospital ships to deliver free, world-class healthcare services, capacity building, and sustainable development to those with little access in the developing world. Founded in 1978 by Don and Deyon Stephens, Mercy Ships has worked in more than 56 developing countries, providing services valued at more than $1.6 billion and treating more than 2.7 million direct beneficiaries. Our ships are crewed by volunteers from over 50 nations, with an average of over 1,300 volunteers each year.

Professionals including surgeons, dentists, nurses, healthcare trainers, teachers, cooks, seamen, engineers, and agriculturalists donate their time and skills. With 16 national offices and our Africa Bureau, Mercy Ships seeks to transform individuals and serve nations one at a time. For more information click on mercyships.org.