COVID-19

6 March 2020

Whether you partner with Mercy Ships through prayer, financial support, or volunteerism, you are a vital part of our family. Your dedication and generosity has enabled Mercy Ships to provide free, life-changing surgeries to people in need for more than 40 years.

Our life-changing mission would simply be impossible without our donors, partners, and selfless volunteers, and during this time of stress and uncertainty, we value those relationships more than ever. That’s why we will continue to provide complete transparency about our procedures during the evolving COVID-19 pandemic.


Blog 7 – June 1st, 2020

Although borders to countries remain tightly monitored, as restrictions begin to ease in different locations, our teams continue to work tirelessly and respond directly to the needs of our West and Central African partners as they deal with the threat and spread of coronavirus on the continent. We are a global community and this pandemic highlights even more that none of us are truly well until all of us are well.

The crew:
Onboard the Africa Mercy, the crew are well and we are grateful that we have not had to deal with any COVID-19 cases onboard. Morale is good. The crew are caring for each other keeping the ship safe and in order during this season. Meanwhile discussions are ongoing for the physical and procedural adjustments that will need to be made, in preparation for a return to service in the field. While many of our medical and healthcare crew are back home assisting in their own nation’s situations, our HR department continues to welcome technical and maritime crew applications in particular.

The ship:
We are grateful to have a safe and secure port in which to undergo our annual shipyard phase. This effort includes hospital and accommodation projects, technical service repairs and completion of maintenance for required surveys so that we can continue the operation of the Africa Mercy in compliance with maritime regulations. Many aspects of these projects are contingent on factors outside of our control, so please join with us in prayer as restrictions slowly begin to lift and for all aspects of restock and resupply.

Our African partners:
Most agree that Africa’s COVID response must be customized to the continent’s unique needs. Solutions deployed by Western countries may not work and in fact may cause even more hardship due to the prevalence of informal economies and subsistence living. Our programs department continues to focus on strengthening the healthcare systems within West and Central Africa with the advisement of Dr. Pierre M’Pele, Africa Bureau Director and other experts. Pre and post-ship projects are underway including:

– Increasing support to the Gamal Dental University in Conakry, Guinea. With a significant restoration of the building and ongoing program development, the dental school is key to training dentists in this part of Africa.

– Our Mental Health Team led the first of a number of eLearning courses designed to support our West African colleagues in hospital and institutional settings during these challenging times. This coincided with Mental Health Awareness Week.

– In Liberia, PPE/supplies a donation for anesthesia machines to JFK Public Hospital in Liberia will be followed-up with online virtual training in both theory and practical use by our Biomed engineers to the hospital’s biomed team.

– A second round of PPE kits to support partners in Benin, Liberia, Madagascar, Sierra Leone and Togo.

As Mercy Ships CEO Tom Stogner says, “Mercy Ships was active in Africa before COVID-19, we are active during COVID-19 and we will continue once COVID-19 is long forgotten!”

Blog 6 – April 24th, 2020

Where is the Africa Mercy now?
Currently, the Africa Mercy is docked in Tenerife, Spain. Here, following the mandatory quarantine required on entry, and in accordance with the advice set out by Spanish authorities, the ship will undergo the planned annual routine maintenance. Once the global COVID-19 situation subsides, it is our hope to return to Africa as soon as possible to continue our mission of bringing hope and healing to the forgotten poor.

How has the COVID-19 crisis affected volunteering with Mercy Ships?
Our ship’s crew hope to return to Africa as soon as it is feasible. We are still taking online applications for crew to volunteer in the future with Mercy Ships so we can be ready to respond fully when the restrictions are lifted. You can read more about how to volunteer here: https://mercyships.ca/volunteer/

How is Mercy Ships keeping in touch with partners in Africa and helping others at this time?
Through our Mercy Ships Africa Bureau and key contacts in Africa, we are exploring ways to best support our partner nations, crew, staff, volunteers, and day crew during these challenging times. Currently, Mercy Ships is:

– Transitioning key Medical Capacity Building programs to an online/remote delivery method to continue training medical professionals in Africa. These courses will focus on the care of critically ill patients, and teach skills that are integral to caring for both surgical patients and those infected with COVID-19.

– Launching a preliminary six-week course for nurses and doctors managing the COVID-19 crisis. Participants in each facilitated learning group will improve their skills in identifying and managing critically ill patients (specifically for COVID-19 related illness), and applying personal mental health strategies to reduce risk of burnout during the crisis.

– Providing continued support to the Gamal Dental School in Conakry, Guinea through remote online tools, and supporting renovation plans and facilities upgrades for the anesthesia and dental classrooms.

– Donating $150,000 to be used in the prevention and cure of COVID-19 cases in Senegal.

– Additional equipment that was requested to help improve patient care was also donated to the Barthimée hospital in Senegal.

– Donating $120,000 of medical supplies and PPE to partners in four African nations: Sierra Leone, Benin, Liberia, and Madagascar.

– Donating medical supplies and masks to healthcare providers in both our Texas and Netherlands local support centers.

Will the Africa Mercy be used to bring relief during this crisis?
Although the Africa Mercy is a fully functional medical ship, it was designed as a surgical specialist unit, and is not suited to provide the degree of care required for patients with highly contagious respiratory diseases such as COVID-19. We depend on volunteers to operate the Africa Mercy. With current travel and other restrictions in place worldwide, it would be vastly challenging to arrange for our volunteers from 50 or more nations to travel to the ship. Additionally, many of our medical volunteers have been asked to assist with the COVID-19 crisis in their home countries. At this time, we remain supportive of our healthcare workers on the frontlines and patients suffering from this illness. Once this pandemic subsides, the suffering that patients in need of surgical intervention see every day will still be their reality. They will be desperately waiting for our return, and we need your support now more than ever to continue bringing hope and healing.

Should I continue to support Mercy Ships?
Yes! As this crisis reaches wider and deeper than anyone could have predicted, it is even more important to support Mercy Ships. What affects one of us, affects all of us. Thank you for your ongoing commitment to help bring hope and healing to those with little or no access to vital healthcare. To help us to strengthen healthcare system in Africa, visit https://mercyships.ca/donation/. We pray for all those affected by COVID-19. We pray for wisdom for our world leaders to have the confidence and ability to deal with the situation as it continues to evolve.

Looking for more information? Read through our Frequently Asked Questions to find out more.

Blog 5 – March 31st, 2020 (updated on April 13th, 2020)

The global COVID-19 situation has made it impossible for us to continue to carry out its surgical programs to the required standards, while protecting against the possible spread of the virus. Therefore, in line with the measures taken by the President of Senegal and in consultation with the Ministry of Health, Mercy Ships has reviewed the activities associated with the Africa Mercy and made the decision to suspend the programmatic activities in Senegal.

Although the Africa Mercy is a medical ship, it is essentially a surgical specialist unit and is not suited to provide care for patients with highly contagious respiratory diseases. The current unprecedented situation has presented a unique operational challenge. With the global air transport shutdown, volunteer professionals were unable to come and serve on our vessel. Additionally, many of our medical volunteers have been asked to assist with the COVID -19 crisis in their home countries.

We are now expediting the annual routine maintenance for the Africa Mercy, with the aim to be back in Africa as soon as possible, and once the global COVID-19 situation allows, continuing our mission to bring hope and healing to the forgotten poor.

Our teams continue to evaluate the COVID-19 situation globally and search how we can best stand together with our partner nations, crew and staff in these challenging times. Actions we take are:

• Working to transition key Medical Capacity Building programs to an on-line /remote delivery methodology in order to continue to train medical professionals in Africa. Specifically focused on content surrounding the care of critically ill patients. These skills are integral to caring for both surgical patients and those with COVID -19 infections.
• Providing continued support to the Gamal Dental School capacity Building program by temporarily using remote on-line tools.
Clarification: As part of our commitment to Africa we have donated $150,000 to the COVID-19 fund in Senegal as well as donating medical supplies and PPE worth $120,000 to four other African nations: Sierra Leone, Benin, Liberia and Madagascar.
• Repatriation of 180 or our crew, mostly medical professionals, back to their home countries.
• Donation of medical supplies from our logistic center in the USA for use in local hospitals, fire departments, elderly homes, for example.
• Evaluation to donate medical and other supplies from our logistic center in the Netherlands.
• Ongoing review of how best support global communities.

For over 40 years, we focus on bringing hope and healing to those we serve. For the past 30 years, we have concentrated our efforts in Africa. During those three decades, we have worked to strengthen local healthcare systems.

We are encouraged by the good results we have realized through direct surgical care for patients and by training local healthcare professionals. Today these healthcare professional we trained in the past, are now frontline worker in the battle against COVID-19 in their respective countries.

As we face these challenging events, we would like to thank you for your ongoing prayers and support to our mission to bring hope and healing to the world’s forgotten poor.

Blog 4 – March 26th, 2020

The evolving situation of COVID-19, highlighted by the WHO as a pandemic and the increasing travel restrictions applied by several countries, have made it impossible for Mercy Ships to continue to carry out its programs to the required standards, while protecting against the possible spread of the virus.

Therefore, in line with the measures taken by the President of Senegal and in consultation with the Ministry of Health, Mercy Ships has reviewed the activities associated with the Africa Mercy and made the decision to suspend the programmatic activities in Senegal.

The main concerns of Mercy Ships are the health of the Senegalese people and the safety and well-being of our own volunteers, crew and staff worldwide. Following the suspension of the programmatic activities, we are presently considering alternative ports for the Africa Mercy.

Annually the vessel undergoes routine maintenance and we currently are assessing how we can accelerate the commencement of that work. This would enable us to bring the Africa Mercy back to Africa once the immediate crises is over and continue our mission to bring Hope and Healing to the forgotten poor.  Mercy Ships is also evaluating how the organization, given certain operational limitations, can be utilized to assist in the global COVID-19 response.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19 Mercy Ships has focused on three main actions:

  1. Looking after the patients under our care, including development of plans for the completion of their treatments in partnership with local healthcare services in Senegal.
  2. Caring for our crew members, our local volunteers in Dakar and our staff globally by following the infection control practices according to best public health guidance from the CDC and WHO.
  3. Adapting our longer term plans to fulfill our mission to provide surgical care and medical capacity training.

For more than 40 years, Mercy Ships has focused on bringing hope and healing to those we serve. For the past 30 years, we have concentrated our efforts in Africa. During those three decades, we have worked to strengthen local healthcare systems.  We are encouraged by the good results we have realized through direct surgical care for patients and by training local healthcare professionals. We are eager to do even more in the future.

As we face these challenging events, we would like to thank you for your ongoing prayers and support to Mercy Ships and our mission to bring Hope and Healing to the world’s forgotten poor.

For questions or further information, please contact:

Diane Rickard
International Media Liaison
Diane.rickard@mercyships.org

Jitze Kramer
VP Global Branding
Jitze.kramer@mercyships.org

Blog 3 – March 20th, 2020

The current situation of COVID-19, highlighted by the W.H.O.’s announcement of the designation of COVID-19 as a pandemic and the increasing travel restrictions applied by several countries, have made it increasingly difficult for Mercy Ships to continue to carry out its programs to the required standards, while protecting against the possible spread of the virus.

Therefore, in line with the measures taken by the President of Senegal with the Ministry of Health, Mercy Ships has reviewed the activities associated with the Africa Mercy and has decided to adapt the programmatic operations of our mission in Senegal. The main concerns of Mercy Ships are the health of the Senegalese people and the safety and well-being of our own volunteers, crew and staff worldwide.

For more than 40 years, Mercy Ships has focused on bringing Hope and Healing to those we serve. For the past 30 years, we have concentrated our efforts in Africa. During those three decades, we have worked to strengthen local healthcare systems, and we have seen the consequences for people when those systems fail.

We are encouraged by the good results we have realized through direct surgical care for patients and by training local healthcare professionals. We are eager to do even more in the future.

We continue to monitor the situation on a daily basis. As we face these challenging events, we would like to thank you for your ongoing prayers and support to Mercy Ships and our mission to bring Hope and Healing to the world’s forgotten poor.

Blog 2 – March 16th, 2020

The current situation of COVID-19, highlighted by the W.H.O.’s announcement of the designation of COVID-19 as a pandemic and the increasing travel restrictions applied by several countries, have made it increasingly difficult for Mercy Ships to continue to carry out its programs to the required standards, while protecting against the possible spread of the virus. Therefore, in line with the measures taken by the President of Senegal with the Ministry of Health, Mercy Ships has reviewed the activities associated with the Africa Mercy and has decided to wind down the programmatic operations of our mission in Senegal.

The main concerns of Mercy Ships are the health of the Senegalese people and the safety and well-being of our own volunteers, crew and staff worldwide. While we regret these measures, we are convinced that they are necessary for the safety and well-being of all concerned. As we face these challenging events, we would like to thank you for your ongoing prayers and support to Mercy Ships and our mission to bring hope and healing to the world’s forgotten poor.

Blog 1 – March 6th, 2020

Mercy Ships is monitoring with concern the growing number of coronavirus cases worldwide. In Senegal, as of 05 March, four active cases have been reported. We are in constant contact with the Ministry of Health of Senegal and from the reports we have received, the Senegalese government is dealing with these cases in a prompt and effective manner.

Due to the very good infectious disease prevention measures we routinely follow onboard the Africa Mercy, we assess the risk to our crew, our patients and our local volunteers to be low at this time. In response to the current situation of COVID-19, we have convened our corporate Crisis Management Team, which includes representatives from the Africa Mercy in Senegal, and the International Support Centre in Texas. Crew and staff members are receiving instructions in personal health monitoring and increased hygiene to prevent disease transmission. Mercy Ships HR is in regular communication with incoming volunteers to keep them informed.

Business managers are reviewing critical activities to consider the potential impact of COVID-19 on our planned operations, and preparing to mitigate as required.

Government of Canada’s web page that provides Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak updates https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection.html

Please join us in praying for a successful containment of this new disease.

 

ABOUT MERCY SHIPS:
Mercy Ships uses hospital ships to deliver free, world-class healthcare services, capacity building, and sustainable development to those with little access in the developing world. Founded in 1978 by Don and Deyon Stephens, Mercy Ships has worked in more than 56 developing countries, providing services valued at more than $1.6 billion and treating more than 2.7 million direct beneficiaries. Our ships are crewed by volunteers from over 50 nations, with an average of over 1,300 volunteers each year. Professionals including surgeons, dentists, nurses, healthcare trainers, teachers, cooks, seamen, engineers, and agriculturalists donate their time and skills. With 16 national offices and our Africa Bureau, Mercy Ships seeks to transform individuals and serve nations one at a time.