Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Medical Relief for West Africa

For many people throughout the world, access to even the most basic healthcare is impossible. For children and adults suffering from disabilities, this lack of access makes small health issues much larger as they go untreated. Along the coast of West Africa, the Africa Mercy ship provides specialized surgery to the poor. Part of the non-denominational global non-profit organization Mercy Ships, the ship has docked at countries like Senegal, Gambia, Cote d'Ivoire, Guinea, Liberia, Benin, Togo, and Sierra Leone for nine or ten month stays. The free surgeries include reconstructive, ophthalmic, dental, obstetric fistula and orthopedic surgery. In the most recent stay in Benin, Africa Mercy impacted over 300,000 people, performing more than 100,00 surgeries on 67,000 direct patients, according to the Mercy Ships Public Relations Liaison, Kathy Gohmert. The 450 person volunteer crew comes from 40 different countries.

The Africa Mercy does not just provide health care, they also send out teams into the field to build capacity to support the health care infrastructure in country. This include education and training for health care professionals to increase the sustainability and delivery of service long after the Africa Mercy leaves. Despite the many challenges facing Africa, the work of the Africa Mercy, especially in the health care sector, "is a testament to the fact that a commitment to bringing healing channelled by passionate people from across the world can make a difference in the lives of thousands" like the family featured in the clip above.

-Erica Stetz