The Africa Mercy has arrived in Benin for its 2016-2017 field service! Now that we have finally arrived, we can’t wait to start working with our amazing volunteers and donors to bring hope and healing to the Beninese people. Keep reading to learn more about this fascinating nation and why we are working there!
Benin was formerly known as Dahomey, a prominent West African kingdom that rose in the 15th century. The territory became a French Colony in 1872 and achieved independence in 1960. Benin is now one of Africa’s most stable democracies.
Located in West Africa, Benin is bordered by Togo to the West, Nigeria to the East and Burkina Faso and Niger to the North. The country covers 112,622 sq km with a population of approximately 9.4 million people. The capital is Porto-Novo, but the seat of government is in nearby Cotonou, the largest city.
Benin is a tropical, sub-Saharan nation, with a developing economy dependent on agriculture, cotton production and regional trade. Benin uses the CFA franc, which is pegged to the euro. In spite of recent economic growth, Benin remains one of the poorest nations in Africa, and the world. The country is home to almost 10 million people, many of whom still lack access to basic social services and remain dependent upon subsistence farming.
3. Almost 40% of Benin’s population lives below the poverty line. Extreme poverty has had devastating consequences here, for example causing an increase in human trafficking in recent years.
The National language of Benin is French with English taught in Secondary schools, however many African languages are spoken. There are about 50 languages and dialects, and most people speak at least two languages. Approximately 36% of the population is illiterate.
The largest religious group in Benin is Roman Catholicism, followed closely by Islam, Vodun and Protestantism.
Benin is severely underdeveloped, with life expectancy at 55 years for men and 59 years for women, shorter than the life expectancy of 165 other countries. 44% of Benin’s population is fourteen years old or younger.
Benin ranks 166th on the UN’s Human Development Index out of the 188 countries and territories evaluated. The country has the 23rd highest infant mortality rate in the world, with an average of 57 deaths per 1,000 live births.
Benin’s hospitals provided .5 beds per 1,000 people in 2010, and since then the government has set goals of expanding its healthcare system. Mercy Ships will be working with local governments during our 2016/2017 field service to run healthcare training programs and help build medical infrastructure.
The Africa Mercy was originally scheduled to be in Benin for Mercy Ships 2013/2014 field service, however the outbreak of Ebola in nearby regions caused Mercy Ships to work in Southern Africa instead. With Ebola no longer a threat and a huge need for healthcare services and infrastructure, we can’t wait to serve the worthy nation of Benin for our 2016/2017 field service!