Nearly 90% of people in Africa have little or no access to a qualified doctor or hospital.

With the support of people like you, we deploy hospital ships to combat this overwhelming statistic.

In developing nations, lack of access to basic health care can have terrible results. Mercy Ships offers free relief through specialized surgeries that save lives, improve quality of life and restore hope. Patients recover under the care of our professionals on the boat.


Craniofacial tumors, cleft lip and palate, and ear-nose-throat diseases are life-threatening conditions for children and adults across Africa. An uncorrected cleft palate makes it difficult, if not impossible, for a baby to suckle or drink from a bottle. Untreated benign facial tumors can grow to the point of suffocating the patient. Very often when suffering from a facial deformity the result is to become a social outcast.


Benign tumors, chronic ulcers, scars from severe wounds, and especially burn contractures (hardening of the skin that restricts movement) are all prevalent conditions in countries where machetes are the most common fires and are used by the majority of the population for cooking.


Because of superstitions, even hernias and goiters, which do not greatly hinder physical activity, can cause sufferers to be ostracized by their local communities, preventing children from attending school and adults from being able to work.


The majority of the world’s blind people – 90% – live in developing countries where basic eye care is virtually inaccessible. Mercy Ships ophthalmic surgeons perform critical surgeries free of charge, offering patients new vision and a greatly improved lifestyle.


Cataracts are the largest cause of treatable blindness in the world. Not only that, but cataract blindness can be cured and vision can be restored through a low-cost procedure lasting about 20 minutes. Surgical interventions on board the Ships of Hope are carried out using the latest methods and technologies. Ophthalmological care is offered to the patient free of charge.

Corneal alterations and strabismus

Mercy Ships’ ophthalmic surgeons perform procedures to correct pterygium (alterations in the area of the cornea), strabismus and deformities of the eyelids, as well as to remove deformed or sightless eyeballs, replacing them with prostheses.

Lack of mobility in a developing country becomes more than a disability. In many African cultures those with birth defects or disfigurement from untreated injury may be seen as cursed and their physical abnormality makes a child or adult an outcast. The Mercy Ships’ orthopedic team helps these injured people with free surgeries.

Untreated trauma

Many Africans who suffer traumatic injuries such as bone fractures do not receive adequate medical attention resulting in deformities and loss of mobility. Our orthopaedic team works to correct these deformities and restore as much mobility as possible for the patient.


Orthopedic surgery requires general anesthesia and a painful postoperative period of prolonged hospitalization. Ponseti plaster casts can be used as an alternative or adjunct to traditional surgical methods requiring less or sometimes eliminating the need for surgery.

Women are often among the most disadvantaged in developing countries. Due to lack of knowledge of obstetric conditions, they are often excluded by the community.

Obstetrical Physics

VVF is a condition primarily caused by prolonged labor. Women in developing countries, for lack of adequate medical care, may be 2, 3 or 4 days in labor. The constant pressure from the baby’s body causes the blood supply to the pelvic region to be cut off, damaging nerves and tissues and creating a hole that causes urine and/or feces to leak. As if the loss of her baby wasn’t enough, the mother also becomes incontinent. Without access to sanitary products, urine leakage goes directly onto their clothes and produces a terrible stench that makes people reject it wherever they go. VVF surgeries repair these fistulas and allow women to return to a normal life.

Uterine prolapse

The exact causes are not yet known, but basically, women of any age can suffer from this dangerous condition that involves the uterus becoming loose and floating inside the woman’s body. Surgery is almost always required to correct this condition.

Improving the health of African women

Apart from VVF there are many other obstetric conditions that women face in developing nations, such as uterine prolapse. This project works in 3 main areas:

  1. Provide surgeries for patients suffering from uterine prolapse or other gynecological conditions.
  2. Provide counseling to patients and their families to lessen the emotional effects that may arise as a result of their condition.
  3. Work with local partners to conduct campaigns to provide general information about prolapse and the surgical options available.

Many people in developing countries have never had the privilege of being seen by a dentist. Dental care is almost non-existent in most of West Africa, and in other countries visited by Mercy Ships, the economic situation makes access to it impossible for the majority of the population.

Oral hygiene education

Lack of oral hygiene and lack of dental treatment can lead to much more serious diseases such as Noma. Mercy Ships’ teams of dental professionals work to improve oral health in developing countries through oral hygiene education and training of community professionals.

Dental Treatments

Mercy Ships operates dental clinics to serve people in need. Due to very poor dental hygiene extractions are common procedures, in addition to fillings, root canal treatment, partial dentures and management of intraoral and extraoral odontogenic infections. Often after being treated, patients hug dentists as a sign of relief and gratitude.

Helping hurting minds

In developing nations, people suffering from mental illness are often marginalized by their families and wider communities. Sometimes, misunderstanding these conditions can lead to further abuse. Few developing nations have facilities offering mental health services, and what does exist is generally inadequate. Primary health care workers are essential to the delivery of quality mental health services and training programs for them significantly improve treatment.

Unfortunately, not everyone who arrives on our hospital ships with a physical or medical need can be helped by surgical care. For many, the boat arrives too late: their condition has progressed beyond the point where medical help can cure them. As the terminally ill suffer physical, spiritual and emotional pain, their families suffer along with them.

The Mercy Ships’ Palliative Care Team helps these patients and their families during this delicate time.

We train family members and caregivers so that they can attend to the physical needs of these patients. The terminally ill are often the primary breadwinners for their families. In these cases, Mercy Ships works with surviving family members to develop new income opportunities. We follow the model of Jesus in caring tenderly for dying patients and their bereaved families, and we invite local religious leaders to offer spiritual and practical support.


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