• York Rotary

Mercy Ships helped by $1.25m Rotary grant

Roger reports...

On February 26th we heard a talk on ‘Mercy Ships’ given by Dr John Rhodes of the Rotary Club of Bingley.

John and his wife Iris have for many years helped to prompt the work of Mercy Ships. When John retired in 1993 he and Iris spent the first half of their retirement working in 12 areas of the world on a voluntary basis for up to 4 months at a time. For the last 16 years they have been involved with Mercy Ships.

At the start of his talk John explained that Mercy Ships were the only source of real health care in West Africa and the Sub Sahara. Why use ships you many ask? Ships can move easily along the African coastline and make use of coastal ports.



Mercy Ships was formed in 1978 by Don Stephenson to help good causes following his own son’s medical problems. Mercy Ships is a charity founded on Christian values. There have been four ships involved over the last 40years.


The present ship African Mercy has been in operation since 2007 and due to be join by a new ship, the first ever purpose built hospital ship, Global Mercy.


It was in 2007 that RIBI became involved in helping raise money to equip Global Mercy. The RIBI was also awarded the largest ever Rotary Global Grant of $1.25m dollars for the mercy ship project.

Statistically 52m people in the world die each year of which 18m people could have been saved by access to routine medical treatment ( 93% of Sub Sahara people have no access to health care or any money to pay for it.) hence the need for medical services.




Why use a ship? A medically equipped ship in a port offers access to electricity, clean water and a secure environment in which to treat patients. In port a mercy ship offers free treatment to all ethnic and religious groups with patients seen by medical staff before appointments are made for future treatment. On board facilities include well equipped theatres , ITU, radiology, pharmacy, etc.


At this appoint John give examples of patient treatments:


Adama. an ophthalmic patient from Guinea, pregnant and partially blind, who following treatment was able to see her twin babies for the first time in her life.






Maurinho. an orthopaedic patient from Benin, with every bent legs that were straightened after treatment.



In Africa women are the glue of the social network but as many as ½ m to a 1m do suffer from Fistula. Mercy Ships have been able to help 80,000 of these women. In 2018 alone 6,500 patients received dental treatment with 15,000 procedures being performed aboard Mercy Ships.


Medical Ships wants to develop Medical Engagements Plans through Partnerships with African countries. Starting with Phase 1 Through Collaborative Assessment, Phase 2 Through Ship Deployment and Phase 3 Through Training and Support. This together with three Lasting Impacts. The first is to train local medical professionals. For example in 2021 Guinea had 400 cases of cleft lip. By training a local, Dr Karamba, he brought down cases to just 6 in 2018. Secondly, to offer access to a range of medical tools and equipment. And, thirdly, to develop safe environments for medical facilities, especially operating theatres .


Why is all this treatment possible? It comes about by a dedicated team of volunteers that include medical staff, crew members, administrative staff, security staff , and many more.

Volunteers offer a variety of time from one week , two weeks, two months, four months up to four years of duty. Since 1978 Mercy Ship’s Lasting Impact has provided services and materials in developing countries valued at more than £1.2 billion. Statistics to date read:

56 nations visited; 592 ports visited; 105,000+ life- changing surgical procedures; 488,000+ dental procedures; 6,600+ Healthcare professionals trained to train others; 49,000+ Professional trained in expertise and 2,8m lives impacted.

John concluded his talk by mentioning that during the pandemic Mercy Ships have been confined to port, but it has allowed time for maintenance work to be carried. Work on fitting out the new ship Global Mercy should be completed shortly in order the have her in-service by the end of this year.

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