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Guinea: Africa Mercy ship arrives for 10-month medical mission

The world’s largest charity hospital ship, the Africa Mercy, has arrived in the Port of Conakry in Guinea to start a 10-month outreach ...

The world’s largest charity hospital ship, the Africa Mercy, has arrived in the Port of Conakry in Guinea to start a 10-month outreach providing free medical care to the people of the West African country.
The Africa Mercy is run by the international Christian charity Mercy Ships and this is the charity’s third visit to Guinea.
For the next 10 months (until May 2013), the state-of-the-art hospital ship, with six operating theatres, will provide free specialised surgeries and training for healthcare workers in Guinea.
In response to an invitation from the President of Guinea, His Excellency Alpha Conde, Mercy Ships is partnering with the Ministry of Health and Public Hygiene and other organisations to improve the country’s healthcare delivery system.
Judy Polkinhorn, Executive Director of Mercy Ships UK, said: “This is the charity’s third trip to Guinea and we are delighted to be returning to help deliver much needed medical care and training.
“As a country, Guinea is working hard to improve its healthcare system and we are delighted to be part of that through our training programmes for Guinean healthcare workers.
“Our previous trips to Guinea have been very successful and I know our volunteer medical and dental teams will once again make a profound difference to the lives of the patients they treat.
“Our volunteers are the heart of Mercy Ships – from the surgeons and nurses who treat the patients, to the cooks and engineers who keep the ship running and everyone fed. They are special people and I am very proud of all of them."
Mercy Ships is currently appealing for a range of nurses to volunteer in Guinea over the next 10 months. The ship requires speciality Adult or Paediatric Medical-Surgical nurses and ICU or PICU nurses.
Surgeries onboard the ship are provided free to the patients and include tumour removal and other maxillofacial reconstruction and plastic surgery; cleft lip and palate correction; cataract removal; obstetric fistula repair; oral and dental surgery; and orthopaedic help for club foot and bowed legs. 

Screenings take place to identify patients which are advertised in advance and Mercy Ships also partnered with local NGOs and the Ministry of Health and Public Hygiene in advance of the ship’s arrival to screen more than 800 patients in the more remote portions of the country in order to identify as many potential patients as possible. 
During the 10-month outreach, the Mercy Ships Eye Team will screen and schedule patients for eye surgeries with cataract surgeries performed in a simple 15-minute procedure, restoring sight for hundreds of vision-impaired individuals.
There will also be a weekly dental screening off-ship.
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 – far higher than the United Nations’ Millenium Development Goal of 60 out of 1000.
In 2010, Guinea held its first democratic election, 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. As a result, the current provision of services is inadequate to meet the needs of a growing population.
In partnership with other international organisations, Mercy Ships will provide training for selected local medical personnel who will continue to offer medical care long after the ship leaves.
In addition, agricultural specialists from Mercy Ships will be training local partners, who will in turn train farmers in aspects of sustainable, organic farming techniques to increase nutrition, thus improving general health.

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