According to recent statistics, more than 400 million people worldwide lack access to basic healthcare programs. This number is startling in its enormity, but it hardly paints the gravity of the big picture. More than half of the earth’s population (5 billion people) does not have access to safe surgery.
From life-changing therapies to quality-of-life medications, a staggering portion of the world does not have the ability to care for itself without outside aid. This lack of medical care is especially harmful to children and young adults. One in eight children die before the age of twelve, unable to receive the medical care needed to what often amounts to a treatable illness.
Bringing affordable medical care to underserved populations has long been a driving force for third world missions. Many corporations are realizing that long-term operations are key to saving the lives of countless persons worldwide.
“Today, mission work is more important than ever before,” says Ethan Feick, a Tennessee based entrepreneur focused on mission work in at-risk countries. “I believe in lifting others up by providing resources and basic human needs that everyone deserves. It’s through mission work that we can help the needy, feed the hungry, and lift the spirits of those who have suffered the most.”
Like Feick, there are missions-minded organizations who are beginning to see the importance of healthcare outreach and its vital impact on at-risk populations. Mercy Ships is one such organization, maintaining one of the most significant presences in the charitable healthcare space. Through their tireless efforts in the field, medical aid, training services, and treatment programs are now available to more than 50% of the Earth’s population within 100 miles of a coastal port.
Mercy Ships was established in the late 1970s, creating floating hospitals capable of caring for the sick in almost any port location. In the beginning, founder Don Stephens purchased a single ship where he would live and serve with his family for more than ten years. Today, more than 1,200 volunteers from 60 countries tirelessly serve aboard one of five ships in use.
The Mercy Ships International Support Center (ISC) is found in Garden Valley, Texas, where ships are managed and commissioned for their work in the field. There are dozens of Mercy Ship branches located worldwide, with some of the most popular ports including:
- The United Kingdom
- West Africa
- New Zealand
- South Africa
- The Netherlands
The mission of Mercy Ships is to bring hope and healing to the world’s forgotten poor, docking their floating hospitals in international waters to provide free medical care to the needy. The medical professionals on board are licensed to complete full surgical procedures, palliative care, end-of-life counseling, mental health treatments, and many other programs. Mercy Ships also provides medical training to healthcare workers and local professionals, which increases the number of medical experts available to help their communities during times of crisis. These trainees may eventually create hospitals of their own, caring for underserved populations in some of the world’s poorest countries.
Global Mercy is the company’s newest commissioned ship, already the largest floating civilian hospital in the world. More than 950 people are able to stay in port, along with 641 volunteer crew members. The ship is outfitted with 6 sanitary operating theaters, coupled with several 200-bed hospital wards to accommodate patients in need of additional care. A ship this size has the capacity to double the Mercy Ships’ training and treatment programs, which will allow volunteers to address more healthcare needs than ever before. During the 50 years the Global Mercy will be in operation, more than 150,000 people will be seen by the doctors, nurses, and therapy professionals working on board.
Mercy Ships is often aided in their work by various government bodies, particularly when it comes to travel. Recently, the Senegalese and Egyptian governments approved a fare-free passage for the Global Mercy through the Suez Canal, saving thousands of dollars in costs for the charity. Cooperation between lawmaking bodies allows Mercy Ships to accomplish more with their medical professionals, providing timely, cost-effective healthcare to those in need.
The importance of medical mission work cannot be understated, changing lives in powerful ways. By partnering with the NRB, Mercy Ships has been able to reach thousands of needy individuals in the poorest countries on Earth. In a recent report, Mercy Ships was cited as having provided medical services worth more than $1.6 billion in total. The hands-on services provided by the ship’s crew have directly impacted more than 2.8 million people worldwide. As of 2019, the ship had trained roughly 44,300 local healthcare workers in the vital skills they need to best serve their communities.
The impact of mission work in underserved populations is more than vital, meeting the needs of millions of needy persons every year. As more and more people become familiarized with organizations such as Mercy Ships, millions of suffering persons will be cared for by the healing touch of a trained, zero-cost physician.