What is Mercy Ships?

Mercy Ships operates state-of-the-art hospital ships run by skilled volunteers to deliver free surgery and world-class health care services and capacity building in developing nations. Founded in 1978 by Don and Deyon Stephens, Mercy Ships has worked in more than 70 countries providing services valued at more than $1.3 billion, impacting more than 2.35 million lives. Each year Mercy Ships has more than 1,200 volunteers from over 40 nations that donate their time and skills to the effort. Mercy Ships seeks to become the face of love in action, bringing hope and healing to the poor.

An enormous challenge

The majority of the world’s population does not have access to a doctor or the financial means to seek treatment.

A dirty waiting room and a run-down operating theatre with old, non-sterile equipment means a mild injury could result in a fatal illness.

Mercy Ships works with local governments and the World Health Organization to help respond to this challenge.

Our answer: hospital ships

Over 50% of the world’s population lives within 100 miles of the coast.

Our ships deliver a state-of-the-art hospital to port cities, providing a controlled, safe and clean environment for patients and volunteers.

The Africa Mercy, the world’s largest non-governmental hospital ship, is crewed by over 400 volunteers from around the world and brings hope and healing to hundreds of thousands of people who could never have believed it possible.

Urgent needs and lasting impact

  • Mercy Ships serves the dire and immediate needs of the poorests populations. More than 80,000 surgeries have been performed since 1978.
  • Mercy Ships works with host nations to help fill the gaps in healthcare systems. We provide mentoring and training opportunities for medical professionals. More than 37,000 people have attended our training.

Mercy Ships Canada

Mercy Ships Canada resources surgery related programs that bring hope and healing to those who have limited access to healthcare.

Story of Mercy Ships

Our programs

Mercy Ships increases access to healthcare around the world. Working with qualified local and international partners, Mercy Ships programs offer global support to developing countries, seeking to make healthcare accessible to all.


  • Women’s Health
    Support and medical care is provided for women who have suffered childbirth injuries. We provide extremely specialized surgery, continuing the recovery process through education and social activities.
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  • Plastic Reconstructive Surgery
    Birth defects, burns and illness often cause deformities we correct through surgeries; including burn-scar contractures, benign tumours, chronic ulcers, combined fingers and many others.
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  • Palliative Care
    Palliative care is an approach that improves the quality of life of patients and their families facing the difficulties associated with life-threatening illness.
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  • Orthopaedic Program
    Mercy Ships trains local surgeons in Ponseti casting, the “universal standard” in non-invasive clubfoot correction, and provides free surgical intervention for musculoskeletal conditions, neglected orthopedic trauma and joint diseases.
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  • Ophthalmic Care
    Our ophthalmic surgeons perform free cataract operations, restoring sight to the blind. In addition, Mercy Ships trains local surgeons and healthcare professionals, building the capacity of the national eye care system.
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  • Maxillofacial Surgery
    Through corrective and reconstructive maxillofacial surgeries, our surgeons relieve deformities caused by physical conditions such as tumours, cleft lip, cleft palate and noma.
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  • General Surgery
    Our surgeons reduce the effects of neglected trauma, disease and congenital conditions by providing general surgeries for conditions such as hernias and goiters.
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  • Dental/Oral Health
    Mercy Ships aims to prevent and reduce the effects of a lack of oral healthcare by providing dental treatment and dental hygiene education and training.
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  • Training and Capacity Building
    Training local health care workers means leaving a lasting impact, long after the Africa Mercy departs.
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  • The HOPE Centre (Canadian Program)
    The Hope Centre frees up precious bed space in the hospital wards on the ship. By freeing up bed space in the wards, the HOPE Centre allows optimization of the ship's surgical capacity
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  • Sterile Processing (Canadian program)
    Preventing surgical infection through sterile processing training
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  • Hospital Chaplaincy (Canadian program)
    Hospital Chaplaincy provides holistic care to patients by focusing on their spiritual, psychological, social, emotional and physical needs
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  • Agriculture training
    Mercy Ships has been implementing Food for Life programs since 1997. Food for Life projects have been impacting lives and training people how to produce nutritional food and crops sustainably.
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Support our work!

“I applaud the Mercy Ships in their efforts of transformational development as they make a lasting difference in a world of need."

Nelson Mandela, Ancien président, Afrique du Sud

Nelson Mandela, Former President of South Africa