A New Lease on Life

Ndiate was heartbroken when her daughter, Mame Diarra, was born with a bilateral cleft lip, a condition that would hinder the newborn's eating and could possibly cause severe conditions like malnutrition if not treated.

Meet Mame Diarra

Every mother wants her baby to be happy and healthy, so Ndiate was heartbroken when her second daughter, Mame Diarra, was born with gaps on both sides of her lips. This treatable condition, bilateral cleft lip, would hinder the newborn’s eating and could possibly cause severe conditions like malnutrition if not treated. 

“After I had given birth, I was in so much pain because of how my daughter was,” Ndiate shared. “I could not eat because of it. I was devastated. I could not sleep. I was wondering if my daughter could be healed.”


Unable to create suction because of her condition, Mame Diarra could not breastfeed. Doctors recommended a special type of bottle, but this product was expensive, costing roughly $50 each. It was also hard to find.

“There is only one pharmacy in Senegal that has that bottle,” Ndiate explained. 

With her newborn’s health on the line and her husband “trying to make ends meet,” Ndiate borrowed money to travel 200 miles to the nation’s capital in search of the bottle. Sadly, the trip was unsuccessful: “When we came, the stock was finished. They did not have it in the pharmacy, so we had to wait for another month.”


Without a way to feed her child easily, Ndiate began to fear for little Mame Diarra’s health. That fear for her little girl’s future began to consume Ndiate — until the prospect of a safe, free surgery gave her hope. 

A family friend told them that the Africa Mercy was in Senegal and might be able to help her baby. It was the news Ndiate had longed for: “I never thought that someone could heal this, so I thought that it would be this way forever.” 

Despite coming miles to arrive on board the hospital ship, the journey to healing had just begun for baby Mame Diarra. Although Ndiate had worked hard to make sure her daughter was getting the nourishment she needed, she was still severely underweight. 


The volunteer dieticians of the Africa Mercy told Ndiate they needed to increase her weight so she would be healthy for surgery. 

“I remember the first time I met her. She was so tiny! I had never seen anything like this before,” shared national crewmember Mathe Joceline Bandiaky. “Every day, I used to go to the wards to see her, and play with her, and try to talk to the mom — tell her that it’s going to be okay; just don’t give up.” 

Once Mame was an appropriate weight, she received surgery to repair her cleft lip, leaving the baby smiling and her mother full of hope.


Volunteer nurse Cobie Waasdorp had the opportunity to walk with Ndiate and her child during Mame Diarra’s journey. Cobie has many fond memories of carrying Mame Diarra around and of the baby grabbing Cobie’s fingers to put in her mouth. 

“It gave me so much joy because we saw the whole journey from the very beginning,” Cobie said. “And then you saw how happy she was, and she has the most precious smile. She has a whole future ahead. We helped give her hope and healing, and I’m very happy for that.”