Mercy Ships Canada was recently named as one of Circle Act’s Absolute Top 99.5% Charities in Canada who bring high-impact positive change! Thanks to our partners around the world, Mercy Ships is able to bring free healthcare and medical capacity building where it is needed most.
While our ship is currently unable to provide aid in our normal capacity, our Africa Bureau has been finding ways to continue serving those in need. Recognizing that change is best affected through building deep partnerships, our Africa Bureau’s central goal is to develop and strengthen relationships in the African nations we serve.
Located in Benin, our Africa Bureau is directed by Dr. M’Pele. Before joining Mercy Ships, Dr. M’Pele worked with the World Health Organization and led the UNAIDS Inter-Country Technical Support Team for West and Central Africa. Now, Dr. M’Pele is working to support African nations in their fight against COVID-19. Recently he presented a donation of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to our colleague healthcare workers in the Republic of Togo. This donation marks a total of over 68,000 individual items donated during this time to assist in stopping the spread of COVID-19 in Africa.
We recently spoke with Dr. M’Pele to learn more about his role with Mercy Ships, and how he helps us bring high-impact positive change to children, families and communities in need:
What attracted you to Mercy Ships?
I met Mercy Ships for the first time in Lomé, in Togo in 2011. I was the World Health Organization representative to the Republic of Togo and I had the opportunity to go onboard Mercy Ships floating hospital, the Africa Mercy. As a doctor and public health specialist working to make Africa healthier, I was impressed by the work of Mercy Ships and I established a solid collaboration with Mercy Ships based on my experience and advice; I was able to support to the charity’s operations in Africa.
Then in 2016, the Mercy Ships International Board appointed me as Africa Ambassador for Mercy Ships, with the responsibility of cultivating relationships across the African continent. Once retired from the United Nations I became the Director of the Mercy Ships Africa Bureau. I have learnt so many things from Africa and the African people while fighting the HIV/AIDS epidemic on the continent. In Africa, we are still so fragile. I believe in Africa and I’m totally engaged in making my contribution to the betterment of the African people. Mercy Ships share my belief in and commitment to this incredible continent and their appearance was an opportunity with faith, humility and humanity to serve my fellow African people.
How did setting up a base in West Africa impact the work of Mercy Ships?
By setting up a base in Cotonou in the Republic of Benin, Mercy Ships has fulfilled the missing face of the organization on the continent, proving its ongoing commitment to Africa and its peoples. Mercy Ships belongs to the African countries we serve and their peoples.
The Africa Bureau was established in October 2016. We conduct and facilitate negotiations, sign and follow up protocol collaboration agreements with African governments, support Mercy Ships programs and improve the communication, networking and advocacy to better involve African nations and the people of Africa.
How do you see the work of Mercy Ships contributing to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Africa?
The UN’s third sustainable development goal aims to ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all people at all ages. To achieve this goal in Africa we need to build strong and resilient healthcare systems to be able to provide universal health coverage. This is what Mercy Ships is working towards.
Mercy Ships programmes provide free surgeries, training of local healthcare professionals and medical capacity building. These programmes make a solid contribution to two of the UN’s six building blocks of health systems (health workforce and healthcare service delivery).
Going forward, Mercy Ships efforts should continue to be sustained in a holistic manner with the full participation of the African communities, African health professionals and health sector partners in a coordinated manner because we can only achieve the development goals if we work together with the local governments in the driving seat.
I also believe that by strategically focusing on countries with both need and opportunity, we can a big make contribution. These strategic countries should host hospital ships three times in the next ten years to make a real impact.
How does Mercy Ships continue to develop our relationships with African partners?
We have two major partners in African nations: the government and the people. Our relationships with our partners are strong. We align our support to the strategic development of African governments and their vision, as in Liberia with the “Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development” and in Senegal, with the “Plan for an Emerging Senegal”. We are always invited by the host nation and we work under the leadership of the national government in a win-win collaboration for the benefit of the people: a true partnership with the African people to achieve more together.
What is the perception of Mercy Ships and its impact from your base in Africa?
We are working in a challenging and changing Africa. To ensure we are as effective as possible we adapt our strategy with the country we are serving as we work to transform the lives of the people and strengthen healthcare systems.
Mercy Ships keeps building its partnership with African countries in line with our values: integrity, excellence, love God as we love and serve others. We are viewed as a committed and long-term partner by our brothers and sisters on the continent of Africa.
To conclude, I would say: in Africa we are all part of Mercy Ships because we are working towards the same goals, together.
Without sustainable, effective partnerships, our work would simply not be possible. Dr. M’Pele’s work is just one example of the extraordinary impact that global partnerships can create. Thank you to all our Canadian and global partners who are helping us bring hope and healing to the world’s poorest nations!