Hope and heal­ing for West Africa

Matamata Chronicle - - News -

This month marks the third time the Port of Con­akry has wel­comed a Mercy ship.

This time it is the Africa Mercy – the world’s largest non-gov­ern­men­tal hospi­tal ship.

For the next 10 months the hospi­tal ship, with six oper­at­ing theatres, will pro­vide free spe­cialised surgery and train­ing for health care work­ers in Guinea, West Africa.

Mata­mata’s Ja­nine Boyes is part of the core crew of the hospi­tal ship.

Her ad­min­is­tra­tive skills are es­sen­tial to the com­plex process of co-or­di­nat­ing the com­ing and go­ing of the hun­dreds of short- term med­i­cal, maritime and op­er­a­tional vol­un­teers aboard the hospi­tal ship from weeks to months at a time.

Five short- term vol­un­teers work­ing as nurses, a sur­geon, and a den­tal nurse arrive from New Zealand this month to join Ms Boyes and the full- time Kiwi phar­ma­cist.

They bring


ship’s vol­un­teers to a ful­ly­func­tion­ing 450 in­ter­na­tional crew mem­bers. Ten more mainly med­i­cal New Zealand vol­un­teers will serve be­fore the end of the year.

In re­sponse to an in­vi­ta­tion from the Pres­i­dent of Guinea, Al­pha Conde, the Mercy Ships pro­gramme strat­egy is to part­ner with the Min­istry of Health and Pub­lic Hy­giene and other or­gan­i­sa­tions to im­prove the coun­try’s health care de­liv­ery sys­tem.

Thanks to do­na­tions from part­ner­ing or­gan­i­sa­tions and in­di­vid­u­als, surgery aboard ship is pro­vided at no cost to the pa­tients.

The sur­gi­cal pro­ce­dures in­clude tu­mour re­moval, other max­illo­fa­cial re­con­struc­tion, plas­tic surgery, cleft lip and palate cor­rec­tion, cataract re­moval, ob­stet­ric fis­tula re­pair, oral and den­tal surgery and or­thopaedic help for those with club foot and bowed legs.

Po­ten­tial pa­tients have been en­cour­aged to at­tend spe­cific screening days to re­ceive ap­point­ments for their spe­cific med­i­cal needs.

The Africa Mercy is a sur­gi­cal hospi­tal ship and can­not treat long-term ill­ness.

Ms Boyes will as­sist in the ad­min­is­tra­tion of a one­day screening in the Con­akry area next week to se­lect pa­tients with treat­able con­di­tions. More than 805 pa­tients in re­mote parts of the coun­try have al­ready been screened.

Pres­i­dent Conde and Min­is­ter of Health Keita Na­man asked the founder of Mercy Ships, Don Stephens, for 50 per cent of the pa­tients to come from the in­te­rior re­gions.

In or­der to ful­fil that re­quest, three more screening trips are planned to the in­te­rior of Guinea.

On shore the Mercy Ships Eye Team will part­ner with the gov­ern­ment and var­i­ous other groups to screen and sched­ule in­di­vid­u­als for eye surgery throughout the 10-month stay.

Cataract surgery, per­formed in a sim­ple 15- minute pro­ce­dure, re­stores sight for hun­dreds of peo­ple.

An off-ship den­tal clinic will be es­tab­lished, and screening will take place weekly.

Guinea is one of the least de­vel­oped coun­tries in the world, rank­ing 178 out of 187 on the UN Hu­man De­vel­op­ment In­dex.

Ac­cord­ing to the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion, life ex­pectancy is only 54.1 years, and the un­der-five mor­tal­ity rate is 142 out of 1000.

In 2010, Guinea held its first demo­cratic elec­tions, fol­low­ing 24 years un­der a dic­ta­tor and two years un­der mil­i­tary con­trol.

Guinea’s health sys­tem has re­mained rel­a­tively sta­ble dur­ing this demo­cratic tran­si­tion.

The Min­istry of

Health and Pub­lic Hy­giene has 412 pub­lic health fa­cil­i­ties and 40 hos­pi­tals for a pop­u­la­tion of al­most 10 mil­lion.

How­ever, ser­vices are se­verely lack­ing, as hos­pi­tals are in dire need of more staff, sup­plies, equip­ment, and gen­eral funds.

In part­ner­ship with other in­ter­na­tional or­gan­i­sa­tions, the Mercy Ship will also pro­vide train­ing for se­lected lo­cal med­i­cal per­son­nel who will continue to of­fer med­i­cal care long af­ter the ship leaves.

The train­ing/ men­tor­ing pro­grammes will in­clude fis­tula sur­geons.

In ad­di­tion, agri­cul­tural spe­cial­ists will be in­volved with train­ing lo­cal part­ners, who will in turn train farm­ers in as­pects of sus­tain­able, or­ganic farm­ing tech­niques to in­crease nu­tri­tion, thus im­prov­ing gen­eral health.

Ms Boyes is fi­nanced by do­na­tions by friends, fam­ily, and by the con­gre­ga­tion of Mata­mata Bap­tist Church. She is grate­ful for this community sup­port.

Mercy Ships has va­can­cies for nurses be­tween Jan­uary and June 2013, and vol­un­teer op­por­tu­ni­ties in other med­i­cal, maritime and op­er­a­tional ar­eas.

On board: Mata­mata’s Ja­nine Boyes is part of the core crew of the hospi­tal ship Africa Mercy.

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