Sierra Leoneans welcome newest Mercy Ship, the Global Mercy, into Port of Freetown

People celebrating and waving flags as the Global Mercy arrives in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leoneans welcome newest Mercy Ship, the Global Mercy, into Port of Freetown

Around 65 volunteers from the UK and Ireland will be volunteering onboard the Global Mercy, which has now docked in freetown, Sierra Leone in response to an invitation from the country’s president, Julius Maada Bio.

It is the sixth time Mercy Ships has partnered with the Ministry of Health of the West African nation to provide free specialised surgeries and targeted medical training to Sierra Leoneans.

The 65 UK crew will be amongst hundreds of volunteers from around the globe who will serve over the next ten months onboard our newest hospital ship, the Global Mercy, until June 2024. Docked in the Queen Elizabeth II Quay, the Global Mercy hospital ship will provide life-changing surgeries through a programmatic strategy that has been carefully aligned with the country’s current strategic healthcare plan.

The volunteers from England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland including nurses, surgeons, teachers, a physical therapist, anaesthetists, admin staff, and even a captain of the ship, are from locations including Norwich, County Durham, Skerries, Isle of Man, Edinburgh, Leeds, Sheffield, London and Crickhowell.

His Excellency, President Julius Maada Bio, affirmed this synergy by stating:

“Today, as we welcome the Global Mercy hospital ship to our shores, we celebrate a convergence of purpose. This collaboration with Mercy Ships reflects our vision for a resilient healthcare system in Sierra Leone.

“Their healing touch aligns seamlessly with our commitment to improve healthcare access and echoes our dedication to the Big 5 agenda on human capital development, particularly in healthcare. With this partnership, we strengthen our stride towards a healthier nation and a brighter future for all.”

Gert van de Weerdhof, CEO of Mercy Ships globally said:

“It’s very exciting to mark the beginning of our sixth field service in Sierra Leone. We’ve had a long-standing partnership, beginning with our field service here in 1992 on the hospital ship, the Anastasis. Since then, we returned from 2001 to 2004, and again in 2011. Now, in 2023, hope and healing will come anew as some 2,350 free, safe surgeries will be performed on board the Global Mercy.”

The life-changing surgeries delivered will include tumour removal, cleft lip and palate correction, cataract removal, orthopaedics and reconstructive plastics. Patients have been encouraged to attend screening days to receive appointments for their specific surgical needs. Patient selection teams have already registered and assessed patients in eight locations, both upcountry and in the greater Freetown area, in preparation for the ship’s arrival.

Sierra Leone, a rapidly growing country with a population of more than eight million and nestled within the vibrant tapestry of West Africa, boasts a resilient populace and a cultural tapestry woven from centuries of history.

While strides have been made in recent years, the country continues to grapple with significant healthcare challenges, particularly in the realm of surgical services. Access to safe and timely surgical interventions remains a critical concern, with a substantial portion of the population lacking proper healthcare infrastructure.

The current demand for surgical procedures significantly outpaces the available resources, leaving many without the medical attention they urgently require. Sierra Leone’s commitment to addressing this need underscores its dedication to the well-being and future of its citizens, as it strives to forge a path toward equitable and comprehensive healthcare access for all.

In collaboration with national and international partners, Mercy Ships will provide education and training across the surgical ecosystem for more than 200 local healthcare professionals who will add capacity long after the ship leaves.

The emphasis of these programmes will focus on surgery, nursing, biomedical, sterile processing, and anaesthesia. This multi-year partnership will focus on strengthening the surgical care system by investing in Sierra Leonean healthcare professionals who will leave a lasting impact in this nation for years to come.