New hospital ship, the Global Mercy, begins local healthcare training in West Africa

New hospital ship, the Global Mercy, begins local healthcare training in West Africa

Mercy Ships founder Don Stephens presented with prestigious award

MEDICAL training has begun onboard the world’s largest civilian hospital ship – the Global Mercy – just days after the brand-new ship arrived in Senegal for its first African mission.

Built by international aid charity Mercy Ships, the ship’s arrival coincided with an historic week of events aiming to increase and strengthen healthcare capacity in Africa.

In June, more than 260 Senegalese healthcare professionals will receive training on board the Global Mercy, through a variety of courses, including surgical skills, SAFE anaesthesia, nursing skills and more. The first of many training sessions will address topics impacting delivery of safe surgical care.

Joanne Balaam, CEO Mercy Ships UK said, “It’s so exciting to see the Global Mercy start to deliver local healthcare training in Senegal; our mission at Mercy Ships is to work in partnership with Africa to create a legacy of sustainable healthcare.

“This is what our brand new, purpose-built hospital ship, is designed for – by training health professionals whilst we are docked in Dakar, we will be leaving behind a stronger healthcare system when we move on to our next port. With the Global Mercy joining the Mercy Ships fleet, we are doubling opportunities for safe and free surgery to take place, transforming lives not only of the patients but their families and communities.”

Gert van de Weerdhof, Mercy Ships Chief Executive Officer, said, “We aim to provide approximately 5,000 training hours during this first visit of the Global Mercy, incorporating areas of the hospital we could never usually use for training in a field service, creating an impactful experience for our participants.  We look forward to returning in 2023 to Dakar to continue our support and see surgical capacity strengthened.”

Mercy Ships and its partners in Africa came together in Dakar in an unprecedented and strategic effort to improve access to safer surgery across the continent. This included the signing of the Dakar Declaration, a plan to accelerate access to surgical, obstetric, and anaesthetic care across Africa, which Senegal President Macky Sall will now take forward to the rest of the African Union.

During the week, representatives from Cameroon, the Union of Comoros, Congo Brazzaville, The Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, and Senegal, gathered on board the Global Mercy to approve a strategic road map to improve surgical care for African nations by 2030, where an estimated 93% of sub-Saharan Africa still lack access to safe surgery.

President Macky Sall greeted the Heads of State, saying, “We, heads of states present this day, have adopted the Dakar Declaration, which is the result of the meticulous work of our ministers and experts on access to surgical, obstetric and anaesthetic care. As President in Office for the African Union, I commit to bring the Dakar Declaration to the summit of heads of state and African governments.”

Ceremonies commemorated more than 30 years of service by Mercy Ships in Africa and concluded with a special ceremony of naming and blessing for the Global Mercy, attended by key members of Mercy Ships, governmental dignitaries, and partners including WHO Africa, Johnson & Johnson, and Smile Train.

At the Ceremony of Blessing, Dr Ganoune Diop, Secretary General of Senegal, said, “It’s my pleasure to be here on behalf of the President to help my country, (which is) facing huge surgical needs as you know. We are very honoured and proud to host the Global Mercy for the first time in Africa. Access to surgery is very limited and expensive. On one hand, hospitals are not well equipped. On the other, our medical staff are not well trained. Mercy Ships comes as a gift.”

During the week, Don Stephens, Founder of Mercy Ships, received the Commander of the Ordre national du Lion du Sénégal. Veteran surgeon Dr Gary Parker, Africa Mercy Chief Medical Officer, received the Officer of the Ordre national du Lion du Sénégal at the Presidential Palace. The Order of the Lion is reserved for only the most distinguished civil or military service.

Over the next 50 years of the Global Mercy’s lifespan, it is expected that more than 150,000 lives will be transformed through surgery alone. Thousands of African medical professionals will receive training and mentoring with the goal of multiplied impact within their communities.

Following the four-week training period in Dakar, the ship will complete final equipping in dry dock for the remainder of 2022 and plans to return to Dakar in 2023 for its first surgical field service. The Africa Mercy will remain in Senegal until the end of the year, continuing to provide surgeries and bringing hope and healing.

Recordings of the ceremonies include:

Ribbon Cutting: 

Inauguration Ceremony:

Ceremony of Blessing: