February 1, 2022 marked a long-awaited moment for Mercy Ships patients and partners across the globe. The Africa Mercy® hospital ship returned to West Africa, bringing hope and healing as she docked once again in the port of Dakar, Senegal.

This return follows a turbulent and challenging few years for every nation. Particularly in countries with middle- to low-resources, the COVID-19 pandemic led to overwhelmed hospitals and declining access to healthcare services.

In the wake of the pandemic, the nation of Senegal was left with a strained health care system and its people with limited opportunities for surgical care. With fewer than seven physicians to treat every 100,000 people, the global pandemic not only took resources and capacity, but also the hope of many patients given surgery dates on the Africa Mercy.

During the early outbreak of the pandemic, Mercy Ships made the difficult decision to sail the Africa Mercy from Senegal earlier than planned.

Having been given dates for surgery, many patients had to battle concerns they might never get the help they had come so close to receiving.

But Mercy Ships made a promise to the country of Senegal. A promise to provide hope and healing and to return to those in need of safe surgical care, now more than ever. In February, after much research, planning, and collaboration with the government of Senegal, it was time to return.

The return of Mercy Ships signifies a promise made and now fulfilled, giving more than a thousand patients back the hope they thought lost.

While the ship may have left during the pandemic, Mercy Ships never did. Thanks to a strong partnership with Senegal’s government and Ministry of Health, Mercy Ships has continued standing shoulder to shoulder with Senegal during the pandemic, providing vital medical supplies such as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and supporting the Ministry of Health’s campaign to provide cataract surgery to more than 100 local patients.

Members of the Mercy Ships Country Engagement Team remained actively at work in the country, with one Senegalese team member making thousands of phone calls per month to keep patients updated and connected during a time filled with uncertainty. During the last months of 2021, the team traversed thousands of miles across the country to revisit formerly scheduled patients and arrange their next appointments on the ship.

Now, hundreds of patients hold appointment cards to see the surgical staff on the Africa Mercy and receive a new date for surgery. Over the coming weeks, the hospital on board will again come to life. The wards will fill with children and adults recovering from a lifesaving or life-changing surgery. The on board pharmacy, laboratory, rehabilitation, and outpatient rooms will live out their purpose as patients go through the journey to healing. And the operating rooms will become spaces for not only transformative surgery, but vital medical training.

Would you like to be part of this common goal and join the hundreds of volunteers from across the globe? Visit www.mercyships.org/makeyourmark to join the return to Senegal and make your mark in 2022.