The Need is Great

5 billion people do not have access to safe, affordable and timely surgery. Since 1978, Mercy Ships has collaborated with governments and the World Health Organization (WHO) to help respond to this enormous challenge.

A large majority of the world’s population does not have a nearby hospital or the financial means to seek much-needed treatment. In addition, hospitals and clinics in poor nations do not have the equipment required to respond to needs and the skills to perform vital surgeries.

Dirty waiting rooms and old operating theatres with deteriorating equipment often means a mild injury could be transformed into a fatal illness.

5 billion

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


of all children need surgical care before their 15th birthday.

321 million

surgical procedures are needed to address the burden of disease.

The Mercy Ships Response

The Mercy Ships response to the global surgery crisis is to use hospital ships run by volunteers to provide free surgeries and healthcare. Health professionals onboard provide specialized surgical care to the most underprivileged populations. Mercy Ships supports lasting development with the help of medical training programs and infrastructure construction, with the aim of improving health systems in each country visited.

Mercy Ships sails to countries at the invitation of their governments: before the arrival of the ship, we collaborate with the ministry of health to identify not only the needs but also to what extent we are in a position to support, reinforce and contribute to the improvement of the health system.

Our objective is that, one day, the countries we serve will no longer have a need for us and that they, in their turn, will be bringers of hope and healing!

Our Medical and Capacity Building programs


  • 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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