On February 14, a special day of celebration took place in the Port of Dakar, Senegal. A long-awaited sight was on the horizon as the newly built Mercy Ship, the Global Mercy, sailed into view.
Designed to deliver hope and healing to nations with limited surgical capacity, the Global Mercy is now ready to live her purpose. This year marks the first in an expected 50-year lifespan of specialized free surgeries taking place on board.
As the ship arrived in the port, crew on board were welcomed with dancing and singing from those waiting on the dock, including national workers from Senegal. An unmistakable joy and excitement buzzed in the air.
“We have been finding patients and we’ve kept telling them to wait. Now they don’t have to wait anymore!” celebrated Eric Diatta, a member of the patient selection team from Senegal.
This field service marks another “first” for Mercy Ships, an organization with over 30 years of history in Africa. This year, we are excited to serve two nations through one port.
“The Global Mercy’s arrival in Dakar this week is particularly meaningful to our team, as this year, we will be serving the people of both Senegal and The Gambia thanks to partnerships with their ministries of health,” explained Gert van de Weerdhof, Mercy Ships CEO. “We anticipate that over the next five months, more than 800 maxillofacial, pediatric orthopedic, pediatric general, general, and eye surgeries will be carried out on board with up to 25% coming from The Gambia.”
A Purpose-Built Hospital Ship
These 800-plus surgeries are made possible because of the fully equipped design of the Global Mercy, with six operating rooms, a laboratory, general outpatient clinics, dental, and eye clinics on board. There’s capacity for 200 patients on board, with hospital decks covering a total area of 7,000 square meters and containing the latest training facilities.
Now docked in port, the ship has the capacity to accommodate up to 950 people. This includes a community of volunteers from around the world, serving for anywhere from a few weeks to years at a time. Each crewmember comes to Mercy Ships to work voluntarily in their area of expertise, from the hospital wards to the galley, engine room, or beyond.
While it’s the vessel’s first surgical field service, this is her second visit to the nation of Senegal. In 2022, the Global Mercy docked in the Port of Dakar for several weeks to focus on medical training. More than 260 Senegalese healthcare professionals came on board to receive training through a variety of courses addressing topics impacting the delivery of safe surgical care, including Surgical Skills, SAFE Anesthesia, and Nursing Skills. This year, that focus will continue through a series of programs both on board and in partnering Senegalese hospitals. Mercy Ships anticipates providing training for more than 600 medical professionals during this field service.
“It is a dynamic and very beneficial collaboration, because the intervention of Mercy Ships represents an essential contribution to strengthening the supply of surgical care and improving the supply of our surgical and social action systems,” shared Dr. Marie Khemesse Ngom Ndiaye, Senegal’s Minister of Health.
Two Countries, One Port
Meanwhile, it is a long-awaited return for our partnership with The Gambia. Mercy Ships has had the honor of visiting twice — first in 2000 and again in 2002. More than 20 years later, it’s time to add a new chapter as we welcome more patients from this nation on board.
“That she has come to Senegal is not by chance: Senegal is indeed the perfect inaugural service location, having the status as one of the most trusted partners to Mercy Ships,” said Dr. Juliette Tuakli, Mercy Ships’ Diplomatic Ambassador for Africa. “Mercy Ships is grateful that Senegal, in the true spirit of Teranga, has opened its border to a select group of patients from The Gambia who will be served alongside patients from Senegal.”
Want to be a part of the transformation and see lives changed for yourself? Learn more about current open positions and how to come on board the Global Mercy in Senegal.