Mercy Ships is grateful to announce the long-awaited return of the Africa Mercy to the shores of Senegal in West Africa.

This return follows turbulent and challenging years that have impacted every nation — particularly in countries with middle- to low-resources, where the COVID-19 pandemic led to overwhelmed hospitals and declining access to healthcare services.

In the wake of the pandemic, the nation of Senegal was left with a strained healthcare system and its people with limited opportunities for surgical care. With fewer than seven physicians to treat every 100,000 people, the global pandemic quickly overtook resources and capacity. In addition, many patients waiting to come on board our hospital ship for surgery had to postpone their healing due to the pandemic.

In 2020, during the early outbreak of the pandemic that shook industries and organizations worldwide, Mercy Ships made the difficult decision to sail the Africa Mercy from Senegal to ensure the continued safety of our patients and volunteers from the contagious and often deadly virus.

But Mercy Ships made a promise to the country of Senegal — a promise to provide hope and healing and to return to those in need of safe surgical care, now more than ever. In February, after much research, planning, and collaboration with the government of Senegal, it was decided that with protective measures in place, it was time to return.

The return of Mercy Ships signifies a promise made and now fulfilled, giving more than a thousand patients back hope.

And while the ship’s programs were paused during the pandemic, Mercy Ships never stopped working towards hope and healing. Thanks to a strong partnership with Senegal’s government and Ministry of Health, Mercy Ships has continued standing shoulder to shoulder with Senegal during the pandemic, providing vital medical supplies such as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and supporting the Ministry of Health’s campaign to provide cataract surgery to more than 100 local patients.

Members of the Mercy Ships Country Engagement Team remained actively at work in the country, with one Senegalese team member making thousands of phone calls per month to keep patients updated and connected during a time filled with uncertainty. During the last months of 2021, the team traversed thousands of miles across the country to revisit formerly scheduled patients and arrange their next appointments on the ship.

Now, hundreds of patients hold appointment cards to see the surgical staff on the Africa Mercy, and soon the hospital will come to life once more. The wards will fill with children and adults recovering from lifesaving or life-changing surgery. The onboard pharmacy, laboratory, rehabilitation, and outpatient rooms will live out their purpose as patients go through the journey to healing. And the operating rooms will become spaces for not only transformative surgery but also vital medical training.

We are so grateful to return and partner with Senegal and want to take a moment to thank our patient and dedicated volunteers and our partners who make this accomplishment possible. Hope and healing are only possible because of the support and love we see every day.

And you can join our mission today. From giving a gift of hope, praying for our volunteers and patients, and going onboard yourself, there are many ways to bring hope and healing.

True impact starts by saving one life and continues with changing a generation. We hope you will continue to join us in this vital work in 2022.