Mercy Ships, an international charity that provides free health services, has docked in Benin’s port city of Cotonou, with the Africa Mercy, the world’s largest private hospital ship, which is staffed by an all-volunteer crew.
The vessel will be docked in Cotonou for a 10-month field service to provide free specialized surgeries for the Beninese and healthcare training for Beninese medical professionals.
This is the fifth time a Mercy Ships hospital has served Benin.
The hospital ship and its crew were warmly greeted by welcome festivities including national music and dances. A brief tour of the ship was provided for dignitaries.
Some training and mentoring would be provided onboard with some additional training occurring in local hospitals and clinics.
The original field service to Benin was delayed for the past two years due to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.
Mercy Ships served the people of Madagascar from 2014-2016.
During the Africa Mercy’s 10-month stay in the port of Cotonou, Mercy Ships plans to meet immediate medical needs by providing over 1,700 life-changing surgeries for adult and pediatric patients onboard and by treating over 8,000 at a land-based dental clinic.
Benin ranks 166 out of 187 countries according to the UN Humanitarian Development index, which indicates the great need that exists in this West African nation.
The free surgeries provided by Mercy Ships will include removing life-threatening tumours, repair of cleft lips and palates, obstetric fistulas, hernias, severe burn-related injuries and correction of pediatric orthopedic deformities. A dental clinic will offer treatment to patients for the duration of the 10-month stay, and an ophthalmology programme will start in January 2017.