Over 4,300 people queue for mass screening hoping for an appointment card leading to life changing surgery aboard 'African Mercy'.
In drizzling rain several hundred people joined the queue, and by daybreak they started to come in their thousands; this was no grand final, and no rock concert – 'The Mercy Ship' had arrived in the West African nation of Guinea.
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 Organization, 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.
Africa Mercy, the world's largest private hospital ship, operated by Mercy Ships, will be the platform during the next ten months for a range of free health and development programs provided by more than 400 volunteer crew members from around the world. The ship has six operating theatres, a 78-bed hospital and state-of-the art equipment.
The screening day went well as a result of great teamwork from the crew and support from the government of Guinea and local authorities. About half of those who came for screening had to be turned away because of medical conditions that could not be provided on the Africa Mercy. More than 200 patients were selected from the screening immediately for surgeries which began onboard on the same day. Another thousand were scheduled for further evaluation or treatment.
Those selected for treatment represented specialties provided by volunteer medical teams, including Orthopaedic, Maxillofacial, Plastic and General Surgery, Obstetric Fistula, Eye and Dental.
At a later separate dental screening, 400 people queued in the rain. A number of similar dental screenings and clinics will take place twice a week until May next year. Dental services will be provided off the ship in Conakry where the ship is docked.
Mercy Ships is a global charity that has operated hospital ships in developing nations since 1978 providing free health care and community development services to the forgotten poor.
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