Mercy Ships brings help and healing to poor nations around the world, according to Kelvin Burton, Mercy Ships chief technology officer.
Founded in 1978, the organization depends on the volunteer efforts of doctors, dentists, nurses, teachers, cooks, seamen, engineers, community developers and others.
Over the years, Burton said, Mercy Ships has:
• performed approximately 2 million services worth more than $250 million and has affected more than 2.5 million people;
• treated more than 300,000 people in village medical clinics;
• performed approximately 18,000 surgeries;
• performed approximately 110,000 dental treatments; and
• completed nearly 350 construction and agricultural projects.
In addition, the Mercy Ships fleet has visited more than 500 ports in more than 50 developing nations and 17 developed nations.
"What we do is take our ... hospital ships to Third World situations—primarily West Africa and the Caribbean in the last few years," said Burton. "The Caribbean being places like the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Belize, Nicaragua and Guatemala. And in West Africa, its been Benin, Togo and Sierra Leone—and most recently in Liberia."
Burton said the United Nations pushed very hard for Mercy Ships to go to Liberia, and "we just sailed out of Monrovia to South Africa to do our annual refit of the ship, and then well be going back to Monrovia."
Indeed, the most visible part of Mercy Ships efforts is the medical work the organization performs.
"The surgeries we do are typically life-changing surgeries, like cataract removal, tumor removal, and various sorts of cleft lip and cleft palate surgeries—things that are totally debilitating but dont take dramatic amounts of surgery to produce radical changes," Burton said.
"So thats the focus of the surgery, and primarily because of the fact that it requires relatively short ward time and ward space is critical in these situations," Burton said. "We can help a whole lot more people if they dont have to spend three months recovering, and most of our patients can recover in a week."
Meanwhile, although Burtons IT staff does not produce systems for the medical operations of the ships, he said, Mercy Ships is seeking a grant to enable his staff to develop applications that will better enable doctors on the ships to consult with specialists remotely on cases that might require outside consultation.