Africa Mercy® heads to Madagascar after recrewing in East London

Extensive South African upgrades will benefit Mercy Ships’ future surgical offering

EAST LONDON, SOUTH AFRICA 25 JANUARY 2024 – This week, following a recrewing effort, the hospital ship the Africa Mercy® departed from the Port of East London for service within the nation of Madagascar for the next 10 months.

During an eight-month refit in Durban’s Dormac Shipyard, the ship underwent extensive repairs and maintenance to prolong and improve the vessel’s service life and improve the quality of the ship’s medical services.

Highlights of the Africa Mercy’s refurbishment included an information technology (IT) upgrade enhancing the ship’s operating theatre functionality and performance by enabling more seamless coordination between the Africa Mercy and Mercy Ships’ latest hospital ship, the Global Mercy™, which currently is serving the nation of Sierra Leone in West Africa. Upgrades will support the provision of essential training for local doctors, fostering the development of in-country healthcare professionals. Additional improvements included modernization of the galley, upgrades to the elevator system, and remodeling several cabin spaces enabling the ship’s community to better serve those in need of surgical care.

Brenda van Straten, Director, Mercy Ships, South Africa, says: “The refit was part of a broader five-year initiative to ensure that the Africa Mercy can continue the provision of life-changing surgeries and training over the course of the next ten years. In parallel with the ship’s refurbishment, Mercy Ships conducted eight Safer Anesthetics From Education (SAFE) courses in South Africa this past year, impacting 236 health professionals in the region.”

The courses in South Africa were focused on rural and state hospitals where junior doctors are in vital need of practical approaches to managing their patients. A total of 58 South African Anesthetists partnered with Mercy Ships to provide the training.

The ship’s service in Madagascar is part of a five-year investment in Education, Training and Advocacy efforts in combination with a surgical schedule including maxillofacial and ENT, general, pediatric specialized general, pediatric orthopedic, reconstructive plastics, ophthalmic, women’s health as well as dental care.

A 2016 study found that only 20% of the population can access surgical services within two hours, and up to 95% of the population would face financial ruin if they required surgery. With approximately 20 physicians for every 100,000 people, surgical treatment feels out of reach for many.

The 10-month field service will be the fourth visit since 1996, with the most recent taking place in 2015-2016. Over these three previous field services, Mercy Ships worked with the government and Ministry of Health to provide 6,425 surgical procedures and over 52,000 dental procedures. In addition to providing life-changing surgical and dental care, Mercy Ships has also had a historic focus on education, with a total of 2,019 healthcare professionals receiving training from Mercy Ships in the past.

Mercy Ships still has open volunteer roles for project directors, clinical training coordinator and informatics specialists as well as ward nurses, IT professionals, cooks, teachers, plumbers, electricians. For more information go to



Mercy Ships operates hospital ships that deliver free surgeries and other healthcare services to those with little access to safe medical care. An international faith-based organization, Mercy Ships has focused entirely on partnering with African nations for the past three decades. Working with in-country partners, Mercy Ships also provides training to local healthcare professionals and supports the construction of in-country medical infrastructure to leave a lasting impact.

Each year, more than 3,000 volunteer professionals from over 60 countries serve on board the world’s two largest non-governmental hospital ships, the Africa Mercy® and the Global Mercy™. Professionals such as surgeons, dentists, nurses, health trainers, cooks, and engineers dedicate their time and skills to accelerate access to safe surgical, obstetric and anesthetic care. Mercy Ships was founded in 1978 and has offices in 16 countries as well as an Africa Service Center in Dakar, Senegal. For more information, visit and follow @MercyShips on social media.

For more information contact:

Brenda van Straten

Director, South Africa

Mercy Ships Email:


Hi-res photos and general Mercy Ships B-Roll video footage are available upon request.