Story provided by Holly Summers, Mercy Ships UK. Photos courtesy of Mercy Ships
The lasting impact of devastation
Mercy Ships’ last visit to Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, was in 2008, while the country was still recovering from 14 years of civil war which had devastating effects.
Since this visit, Liberia has again experienced a troublesome crisis in the form of Ebola. This devastating disease resulted in the loss of over 1,000 lives, including 8% of its doctors, nurses and midwives. Thus, the medical system in Liberia was irrevocably altered by the effects of and responses to the 2013-2016 Ebola virus outbreak.
Today, between the 753 medical facilities in Liberia, public and private, there are large disparities in surgical coverage and resourcing across the country.
Many hospitals lack consistent water and electricity supply and have routine shortages of essential medications.
The majority of specialist surgical care is in Monrovia and travel to the capital, and even across regions, becomes difficult, even impossible, when road conditions deteriorate during the rainy season (April-November). This is especially true for counties in the southeast and the northeast.
A hundred beds for one hundred thousand people
J.J. Dossen Hospital is a 110-bed hospital situated in Harper City, Maryland County to the southeast. The region has about 25 healthcare facilities which all refer to this hospital, and it provides medical services to patients in Maryland, River Gee, and Grand Kru counties and neighbouring Ivory Coast - a population of about 100,000 people.
The hospital has NGO partners who assist with training and medical personnel, providing fuel, medicines, food, surgical equipment and transportation.
It was here that the Mercy Ships team visited earlier in spring 2019, flown by MAF.
A team member described their trip, ‘Our team was in Liberia to complete an assessment of the healthcare system in preparation for our hospital ship’s arrival in 2020. Thanks to MAF, our team was able to go to Harper to visit the J.J. Dossen Hospital and come back within a day.'
They continued, 'Flying with MAF was not only a great experience, but it also allowed us to save on travel time and expenses, contributing to an increase efficiency in our process and a better use of our resources, as we worked towards getting a better understanding of the healthcare system to come and support the Liberian people.’
'Flying with MAF was not only a great experience, but it also allowed us to save on travel time and expenses.'
Mercy Ships Team Member
Africa Mercy Ship visit in 2020
Mercy Ships bring highly trained, volunteer medical professionals to places where medical infrastructure is limited, and trained professionals are in short supply.
The Africa Mercy ship is the largest charity-run floating hospital in the world, containing five operating theatres, a recovery area, intensive care unit and 80 ward beds, run by around 400 volunteers crew. All healthcare and surgical services are offered for free by the charity, and this is expected to make a huge difference to the people of Liberia next year.
In its four previous trips to Liberia, Mercy Ships performed more than 6,500 life-changing surgeries and provided more than 16,000 patients with free dental care and basic oral health education. In addition, more than 60 healthcare professionals received training, and a new medical clinic and a dental clinic were established.
The ship will be docking in Monrovia in August 2020 and will be moored for at least 10 months. In this time, the team will make investments to improve local healthcare facilities and provide education for local professionals on medical practices, including maxillofacial surgery techniques, orthopaedic trauma, nursing, paediatric anaesthesia and infection control.
A long-standing partnership
As a very important part of bringing hope and healing to the people of Madagascar, Mercy Ships was able to work with MAF to transport patients and crew all over this vast country.
Now in Liberia, Mercy Ships is again looking forward to the great partnership with MAF as a key component in delivering help, hope and healing throughout Liberia.