DAKAR SENEGAL, August 15, 2019 - This month marks the second time that the Port of Dakar has welcomed a Mercy Ship to its shore. This time it is the Africa Mercy – the world’s largest non-governmental hospital ship.
In response to an invitation from the President of Republic of Senegal, His Excellency Macky Sall, the Mercy Ships program strategy is to partner with the Minister of Health and Social Action, His Excellency Abdoulaye Diouf Sarr and other organizations to support the continued improvement of the country’s healthcare delivery system.
During the Africa Mercy’s 10-month stay in the port of Dakar from August 2019 through June 2020, Mercy Ships plans to provide 1,200 to 1,700 life-changing surgeries onboard, to treat over 4,000 at a land-based dental clinic as well as providing healthcare training in partnership with local medical professionals.
“We are privileged to return to the Republic of Senegal. Together with current Ministry of Health and local health professionals, we hope to contribute to the alleviation of suffering for those with least access to surgical care as the country continues to refine their national surgical plan, in line with the government’s Plan for an Emerging Senegal (PES) policy framework (1),” stated Donovan Palmer, Mercy Ships CEO.
At the ship’s arrival ceremony, Senegal Minister of Health and Social Action, Mr Abdoualye Diouf Sarr spoke emphatically that the visit of Mercy Ships in his nation is deeply welcome.
"In September 2017, the Government of Senegal signed a partnership agreement with Mercy Ships. Without waiting, my services started to prepare for the arrival of the hospital ship, through a pilot committee and a technical committee. This is the platform from which I would like to thank all the parties that took part, in their respective expertise, in working tirelessly for the success of this operation.”
The Mercy Ships partnership with a country involves a five phase process, beginning approximately two years before ship arrival, includes 10 months with the ship in-country, and continues for around two years after the ship leaves. Thanks to donations from partnering organizations and individuals from around the world, the surgeries onboard ship, training and mentoring are provided at no cost to the patients and local professionals.
These surgical procedures will include tumor removal and other maxillofacial and plastic reconstructive surgery, cleft lip and palate repair, cataract removal, obstetric fistula repair, dental care, and orthopedic help for clubfoot and bowed legs. Potential patients have been encouraged to attend regional pre-selection days to receive appointments for their specific medical needs.
President Sall and Minister of Health and Social Action Sarr have requested that Mercy Ships focus on the needs of patients both in the capital and interior regions of Senegal. In order to fulfill that request, patient selection took place prior to the ship arrival in Thies and Diourbel to select patients with treatable surgical conditions. Using mobile technology, Mercy Ships selection experts approve patients for a field consultation by a Mercy Ships medical team. It is expected that patients will also be selected from Fatick, Kaolack, Kaffrine, Louga, Saint Louis, Matam, Tambacounda, Kedougou, Kolda, Sedhiou and Ziguinchor.
An off-ship dental clinic will be established in the Case Foyer, Sanglakam, thanks to the Mayor of Sangalkam, and patient selection will take place weekly. Eye surgeries are expected to begin at the end of the year.
The Africa Mercy is a surgical hospital ship and cannot treat long-term illness such as diabetes, hypertension, sickle cell anemia, ulcers, HIV/Aids or heart conditions.
Although Senegal has a solid healthcare system in place, there is still a need for capacity building and surgeries, especially in the rural areas where approximately 55% of the population lives (around 8.8 million) and access is limited.
In partnership with other international organizations, the Mercy Ship will also provide training for selected local medical personnel who will continue to offer medical care long after the ship leaves. The training/mentoring programs will include maxillofacial, plastic reconstruction, and fistula surgeons. Medical capacity building in areas of nursing, anesthesia, sterile processing and biomedical engineering will take a “Training-of-the-Trainer” approach.
In addition, agricultural specialists onboard the ship will be involved with training of local partners, who will in turn train farmers in aspects of sustainable, organic farming techniques to increase nutrition, thus improving general health.
(1) Plan for Emerging Senegal (PES) http://www.presidence.sn/en/pse/emerging-senegal