Mercy Ships Africa Blog

Healed After 27 Years: Coumba’s Journey

Coumba was at her family’s farm on the day that her life changed forever.  “Our mother used to cook with fire,” she said. “It was a big farm, so my mother would start a fire in one place, then go to another. My little brother was playing by the fire, got too close, and started to burn.”  At just 4 years old, Coumba rushed in to save her brother as the fire grew.  “I fell on my left side, so I burned there,” Coumba said. “My brother was then crying a lot, which my mother heard, so she came to us, but I was already entirely burnt on my left side.”  With her left arm fused in a bent position and her hand damaged, Coumba adjusted to life with only one functional arm and hand. She grew up to marry, work as a maid, and raise three children on their rice and vegetable farm in northern Senegal. Coumba longed to take care of the farm herself, like many other women do in Senegal, but her limited range of motion made this dream impossible.  After decades of living with a bent arm, surgery on the Africa Mercy® meant that at the age of 31, Coumba’s life was about to change. 

From the Brink of Death to New Life: How One Act of Kindness Changed Everything

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For Catherine Conteh, there’s a moment from the birth of her daughter that still plays over and over in her mind, 30 years later. She had been lying in her hospital bed in Sierra Leone, in labor, writhing in untreated pain, for four days straight. The doctors told her that due to complications with her labor, she needed a Caesarean section surgery – one that 18-year-old Catherine and her husband, Augustine, couldn’t afford. Without payment up front, she would not be given the surgery.

Mercy Ships Partners with Hope Ignited to Launch Guinea’s First Pediatric Center of Excellence

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In a brightly decorated hospital room in Dubréka, Guinea, baby Mory is being examined by a pediatric surgeon. The surgeon gives Mory’s anxious parents a big smile and a thumbs up – all is well.  When the surgeon first saw Mory a few months ago, he was severely malnourished and dangerously underweight. Now, after regular treatment and several follow-up appointments, he’s reached a healthy weight and is being sent home, much to the relief of his parents.

Sierra Leone’s Journey for Better Health: Overcoming Obstacles and Embracing Partnerships

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For those of us on the ground in Sierra Leone, the challenges we face daily in providing healthcare services underscore the grave disparities present across the various corners of our planet when it comes to our ability, or lack thereof, to heal. In Sierra Leone, the most dramatic example of the challenges we face is the severe lack of qualified professionals equipped to handle our nation's diverse and growing healthcare needs, particularly in relation to surgical care.

‘The Gifts Within’: Hamadou Finds Hope

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Hamadou was 4 years old when he came to the Africa Mercy® in Senegal. By then, he had learned to cope with the physical limitations of his cleft lip, a gap in his upper lip that impacted his ability to swallow and eat, as well as how his teeth were growing. But the cleft lip continued to hold him back socially, even within his own family. People in Hamadou’s community drink their water from a large pot that they share with other members of their household, as well as any guests. “People would not want to drink from the same water pot as him,” said his mother Hawa. While Hamadou was isolated in some ways, his mother was always by his side providing constant support.

The Journey to Becoming Senegal’s First Pediatric Orthopedic Surgeon

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In Senegal, a nation of over 16 million people, there is currently not a single children’s orthopedic surgeon. It’s a need that’s immense – and immediate. Without a local specialist, children with lower limb conditions in Senegal must wait for a doctor from another country to visit. The lack of in-country children’s orthopedic surgeons means that bone conditions can take a long time to be treated, if at all. These conditions can lead to severe disability and drastically affect a child’s quality of life. Such bone conditions include clubfoot.

45 Years of Mercy Ships: Looking Back and Dreaming of the Future

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Forty-five years ago, Don and Deyon Stephens had a dream. They wanted to convert a ship into a floating hospital, to bring safe, free surgical care to those who needed it most. They left their home in the United States, setting out into unfamiliar waters. There were six of them: Don, Deyon, and their four children. A small team of people who shared their vision began to grow around them. Today, four and a half decades later, Mercy Ships has impacted more than 1.2 million medical and programmatic beneficiaries and performed more than 110,000 life-changing surgeries. In the first half of 2023, more than 1,100 volunteers served on board the brand-new Global Mercy®. “What started as a vision or a dream with Deyon and me, now it belongs to hundreds, thousands of people,” Don said.

Bridging the Gap of Anesthesia Care in Guinea

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For Marthe Lamah, becoming an anesthetist was a life-long dream.  “Since I was little, I always liked to help vulnerable people,” she says – and she believed patients receiving surgery in the operating room were among the most vulnerable of all. “I understood immediately that there is a specialty where you could take care of this type of vulnerable people with proper training in place.”  Right now, Marthe is one of more than 20 students studying to become a nurse anesthetist in Guinea’s Gamal Abdel Nasser University. At the front of the classroom is Professor Joseph Donamou, the catalyst behind the program.  

One Port Visited, Two Nations Served: Mercy Ships Ends an Impactful Season in Senegal

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On June 20, the Global Mercy™ held one last event before preparing to leave Senegal, welcoming partners from across Senegal and The Gambia to thank them for their support throughout this field service.  After years of planning, prayer, and partnership, the Global Mercy has been serving patients in Senegal. It all started in one special moment, as 4-year-old Amadou walked up the gangway of the hospital ship on his way to healing. Weeks later, Amadou departed down the same gangway. This time, he was walking on straight legs for the first time in his life. Now, he’ll be free to grow up healthy and tall, able to attend school and become independent one day.