Mercy Ship Arrives in Benin
The hospital ship Africa Mercy, operated by Mercy Ships, has docked in the port city of Cotonou, Benin, to begin a ten-month season of service. During this time, Mercy Ships will provide free specialized surgeries and health care services to the West African nation’s people.
Benin is one of the least developed countries as ranked by the United Nations Human Development Index, with a life expectancy of only 59 years. Access to medical care remains beyond the reach of many, with only six doctors for every 100,000 people and a population of 10.6 million.
The Africa Mercy arrived in Benin after two years of service in Madagascar and was welcomed into port by a crowd of well-wishers including the First Lady of the Republic of Benin. The world’s largest civilian hospital ship will build on work done during its five prior visits to Benin, the last of which was in 2009.
The Africa Mercy and her crew of more than 400 volunteers from over 40 nations will provide direct surgical services and health care education to improve the capacity of the Beninese health system in collaboration with the Government of Benin. All surgeries and other health care services are offered at no charge to patients. Patient screening teams will be accessing patients in eight cities nationwide.
During the arrival ceremony, Madame Claudine Gbenagnon Talon, First Lady of the Republic of Benin, addressed the crew, saying, “Behind all statistics, there is a story, a life, a person who needs a new hope, a treatment or a cure. I wish that this enriching collaboration of Benin with Mercy Ships will continue to grow year after year for the well-being of the population.”
While in Benin, Mercy Ships plans to provide more than 1,700 surgeries to adult and pediatric patients on board, to treat over 8,000 at a land-based dental clinic and to provide health care training to Beninese health care professionals.
Surgeries will include removal of life-threatening tumors, cleft lip and palate repairs, plastic reconstruction for severe burn-related injuries, hernia repairs, cataract removal, correction of orthopedic deformities for children, obstetric fistula repair and dental care.
Opportunities of training include one-on-one mentoring for selected Beninese surgeons, nurses and anesthetists. Additionally, courses will be offered in local hospitals in the areas of essential surgical skills, primary trauma care, sterile processing, anesthesia and several others.
The Africa Mercy will stay docked in Benin until June 2017. Started in 1978, Mercy Ships has provided free medical services valued at more than $1 billion to more than 2.5 million people.