What is Mercy Ships?

Mercy Ships operates state-of-the-art hospital ships run by skilled volunteers to deliver free surgeries and healthcare services and capacity building in developing nations. Founded in 1978 by Don and Deyon Stephens, Mercy Ships has worked in more than 56 countries, providing services valued at more than $1.6 billion and treating over 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. With 16 national offices and our Africa Bureau, Mercy Ships seeks to transform individual lives and serve nations one at a time.

An Enormous Challenge

Five billion people worldwide do not have access to safe, affordable and timely surgery.

In West and sub-Saharan Africa, 93% of the population cannot afford medical care or live too far from a hospital to access treatment.

Mercy Ships works with local governments 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.

Mercy Ships also has a team tasked with connecting with rural communities and helping them travel to the ship to receive treatment.

The Africa Mercy, the world’s largest civilian hospital ship, is crewed by over 400 volunteers from around the world, bringing 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 world’s poorest populations. More than 100,000 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 supports surgery related programs that bring hope and healing to those who have limited access to healthcare.

Story of Mercy Ships

Our Programs

Mercy Ships works to increase access to healthcare around the world. Working with qualified local and international partners, Mercy Ships programs offer global support to developing countries, striving 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