Mercy Ships Ends an Impactful Season in Senegal
After years of planning, prayer, and partnership, the Global Mercy has been serving patients in Senegal. It all startedin one special moment, as 4-year-old Amadou walked up the gangway of the hospital ship on his way to healing. Weeks later, Amadou departed down the same gangway, walking on straight legs for the first time in his life. Now, he’ll be free to grow up healthy and tall, able to attend school, and become independent one day.
“After all this time equipping the ship and it just sitting empty, walking down the hallway and hearing Amadou’s laughter echoing made the whole ship feel more alive, and like it was really happening,” remembers Caroline Mallory, a volunteer nurse who was on board during the first surgery.
Amadou’s was just the first of many patients’ lives changed over the course of the Global Mercy’s recent field service in Senegal. Thanks to the hospitality of the governments of Senegal and The Gambia, Mercy Ships was able to serve patients from two countries through just one port. A historic first for the organization, this allowed even more people to access the safe, free surgical care they needed.
This field service marks the organization’s third in a row in the nation of Senegal. The journey began in 2018 when the Africa Mercy paid a short visit to the port of Dakar, returning a year later to begin 10 months of surgical care and medical training. However, the ship had to leave earlier than anticipated in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This unexpected departure meant that hundreds of patients with scheduled surgery dates were left waiting. Throughout the pandemic, Mercy Ships continued a close relationship with the government of Senegal, promising to return.
Fulfilling a Promise
In February 2022, this promise was fulfilled, and hope restored to 695 patients when the Africa Mercy sailed into Senegal. Later that year, the Global Mercy joined her sister ship in port, marking her very first visit to the continent of Africa. There, the new ship was officially inaugurated and welcomed healthcare professionals on board for several weeks of surgical education courses. Mercy Ships and its partners were honored to support the Dakar Declaration, a strategic plan initiated by African countries, to make key improvements to African surgical, obstetric, and anesthetic systems by 2030.
Bringing safe surgical care and surgical education this year took helping hands from across the world, including 1,184 volunteers from 59 nations and 272 national crewmembers working in 30 different areas. It also required support from more than 50 corporate partners and many national partners.
These combined efforts meant that Mercy Ships was able to perform nearly 800 surgeries and train 600 healthcare professionals who can continue to strengthen Senegal’s surgical systems long after the Global Mercy sails away. Among these are professionals like Dr. Mohamed Sabounji, who is currently training to become Senegal’s first pediatric orthopedic surgeon. After participating in mentoring on board the Global Mercy during this field service, he’s now another step closer to completing his studies and providing in-country care to future patients just like Amadou.
The Global Mercy’s field service in 2023 is the latest chapter in this five-year-long journey with Senegal, but it’s not the end. Mercy Ships’ desire is to continue to develop the relationship with the Senegalese government in the years to come and plans to open an Africa Service Centre in Dakar which will serve as a base of operations for its work in Africa.
Partnerships Throughout Africa
Meanwhile, outside of Senegal, Mercy Ships has been active in transforming lives through partnerships and programs. In nations such as Togo, Guinea, and Benin, Mercy Ships continues working with local partners and institutions to help provide care spanning from dental treatment and cataract surgeries to agroecology education and beyond.
Mercy Ships is grateful for the government of Senegal for their support and leadership in advancing surgical care and surgical education in Africa. While this season in Senegal is ending, the impact of the Global Mercy is only beginning. The hospital ship will soon arrive in Sierra Leone, where her crew will serve their third country this year and bring hope and healing to even more families.