Surgery allows Malang to step into a new life

Malang smiling

Surgery allows Malang to step into a new life

 Malang, a five-year-old boy from Senegal, had been to multiple hospitals in his home country in search of medical help. His legs started to bow when he was two years old. His parents couldn’t afford surgery or find a surgeon who could perform the necessary operation.  

“It was tough for him to walk. I was very sad when I saw Malang walking like that,”

his father Sadio recalled.

Sometimes his friends would run and leave him behind, and he’d cry.”

Malang’s family learned of Mercy Ships and got the youngster on board the Global Mercy, where they met British orthopaedic consultant Rachel Buckingham. Dr Buckingham knew instantly that the five-year-old’s bowed legs were just the beginning.  

“It would have got worse over time,”

she said.

“He would have been severely limited in his walking ability.”

Dr Buckingham and her team began treating Malang with vitamin D to strengthen his bones. They also performed a complex surgery to straighten his legs. 

“The impact of the surgery will be huge,”

Rachel said.

“It means that he will be able to run around and play with his friends more readily. He’ll be able to obtain an education.”

Fortunately, Malang will never have to carry the worry that his father shouldered. 

“He himself will probably never realise how bad his deformity would have got had he not had surgery,”

Rachel added.  

Dr Rachel Buckingham first boarded the Africa Mercy in 2019. Although it was her first experience volunteering with Mercy Ships, she was propelled by a long legacy of service. Her grandmother became a doctor 100 years previously – at a time when some UK universities wouldn’t qualify women as physicians.  

When she arrived in Senegal from the UK, her desire to follow in her grandmother’s footsteps was cemented. She returned to Senegal in 2022, and again in 2023, when she served as the lead orthopaedic surgeon for Mercy Ships. 

“Coming here you notice some stark differences in the lack of surgical care,”

she said.

“We treat children with severe deformities. Back home they would never be able to get to that point because we would have treated them in early life.”

Malang’s situation is common not only in Senegal. It is estimated that 5 billion people around the world lack access to safe surgical care – and that approximately 1.7 billion of those are children like Malang. This burden is felt especially heavily in sub-Saharan Africa, where nearly half the population is under 18.  

A 2021 study that took place in four sub-Saharan African nations found that 60-90 per cent of patients in need of surgery would face ‘catastrophic’ costs if they went through with the operation. 

Mercy Ships provided 3,295 surgeries for patients like Malang in 2023. Of those surgeries, 1,437 took place on board the Global Mercy during services in two ports – Freetown and Dakar. The ship served patients from three countries – Senegal, The Gambia, and Sierra Leone. This work was only possible thanks to more than 1,318 skilled volunteers from over 67 countries, including more than 600 Senegalese, Gambian, and Sierra Leonean national crew members. 

This Easter, Mercy Ships is asking for support for children like Malang to help them find free surgery. Find out more: mercyships.org.uk/easter 



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