Beyond the Ship: How Mercy Ships is Strengthening Healthcare Systems Long-Term

For over 40 years, Mercy Ships has provided life-saving and lifechanging medical care all over the world to those who need it most – with a recent focus on servicing West and Sub-Saharan Africa. But the mission and impact of Mercy Ships extends even beyond the ship. In addition to fulfilling surgical needs onboard, Mercy Ships has developed long-standing partnerships with African entities to improve training and infrastructure that allows for greater access to healthcare in the communities served, even after the ship has left the port.

Dr. Pierre M’Pele, former World Health Organization country representative and current African Bureau Director for Mercy Ships, is responsible for driving these partnerships. His goal is to ensure that Mercy Ships continues to transform lives all year long by building strong healthcare systems in the African communities that need it most.

Dr. Pierre M’Pele, Africa Bureau Director, presenting donations to the Togolese delegation and WHO delegation.

“I took office in July 2017 and it’s been now three years that I have dedicated my life to serve those in need on my continent through the work of Mercy Ships,” said Dr. M’Pele. “I have personally enjoyed working for an organization centered on the Christian values of love and service to others.”

Under Dr. M’Pele’s leadership, the Mercy Ships Africa Bureau works to establish official relationships with host countries to plan for and prioritize the needs of the African nations Mercy Ships serves.

“In most collaborations, The Ministry of Health acts as our main partner,” explained Dr. M’Pele. “We agree on a five-year ‘country engagement plan’ which includes medical capacity building programs, access to free surgeries to transform the lives of the people, infrastructure development and renovations, nutrition for health, and advocacy for strengthening the national health system.”

Dr. M’Pele’s role with Mercy Ships pushes the organization to make a difference in ways that can create a sustainable and long-lasting impact in the African nations that need it most, even after the ship concludes it’s 9-month stay.

“Mercy Ships is committed long-term to the countries we serve in Africa and to supporting their national healthcare plans,” stated Dr. M’Pele. “The visit of the ship in the nation is only one part of the equation, it is a big boost to the nations we serve. However, most of our work starts before the ship arrives and after she leaves. As part of the agreed 5-year country engagement plan, the ship visits the country for 10 months to perform thousands of surgeries; beyond that, 4 years are dedicated to various activities to contribute towards strengthening the health system of the host country.”

Dr. Pierre M’Pele, African Bureau Director & Ambassador for Mercy Ships
Dr. Pierre M’Pele, African Bureau Director & Ambassador for Mercy Ships

In some instances, the work extends even beyond that 5 year plan. Most recently, Dr. M’Pele and his team have come together to support their partners in light of the effects of COVID-19 on the already vulnerable healthcare systems in Africa. The bureau implemented the “Stop COVID-19” initiative in April 2020, which provides significant donations of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to frontline healthcare workers in Africa to help combat the spread of the virus while also protecting those on the frontlines.

“The Stop COVID-19 initiative currently operates in eleven partner countries in Africa. Those include Benin, Togo, Ghana, Cameroun, Senegal, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Congo, D R Congo, Guinea and Madagascar,” shared Dr. M’Pele. “Our colleagues have a key role to play for a strong and effective response against COVID-19 on the continent.  This initiative has been ongoing to illustrate the Mercy Ships support and encouragement in the face of the pandemic around the world.”

Looking ahead, Dr. M’Pele and his team will continue to drive forward their work in Africa by ensuring all Mercy Ships programs and initiatives are closely aligned with national policies and sustainable strategies. The success of this work is achieved solely from the close collaboration with key partners such as health workers, beneficiaries, local or national faith-based organizations and national training institutions.

“At Mercy Ships, we are committed to listen, to evaluate and to analyze – so that we can learn and offer better services to the African nations we partner with,” stated Dr. M’Pele. “The Africa Bureau plays a brokering role to facilitate this collaboration in the spirit that we are stronger together, and we at Mercy Ships are committed to working hand-in-hand with the host nations to make a lasting impact to ensure that our contribution will sustain the country’s health system.”

If you’d like to learn more about Mercy Ships work in strengthening healthcare systems in African nations, you can read more about the initiatives and impact made here. If you’d like to learn how you can help contribute to the impact made in Africa and in other countries in need in the future, visit here.

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