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Mercy Ships and WHO collaborate to improve surgery in Africa

HOPE AND HEALING: Dr Peter Linz, international chief medical officer of Mercy Ships (left) and WHO regional director for Africa Dr Matshidiso Moeti (right)

UK FAITH-BASED charity Mercy Ships has signed a collaborative agreement with the World Health Organization to improve surgery and anaesthesia services in Africa.

The partnership will aim to increase access to surgical care, and build capacity of health workers to strengthen surgical care delivery systems.

The agreement was signed in Dakar, Senegal, by WHO regional director for Africa Dr Matshidiso Moeti and Dr Peter Linz, international chief medical officer of Mercy Ships.

“This agreement epitomises what the transformation agenda in the African Region is all about – joining hands with new partners, working together towards improved, equitable access to healthcare services – to transform people’s lives, bringing hope and healing on the African continent,” said Moeti.

“I hope our partnership will do what you [at Mercy Ships] do so well: provide vitally needed services for those who need it desperately, as well as building up capacity in countries.”

During their meeting this week, Mercy Ships and WHO highlighted the gaps in safe, affordable and timely access to essential surgical care, and underscored the need to ultimately work to ensure that no one is left behind.

A report published in The Lancet earlier this year found that there is a severe lack of surgical provision in African countries: the number of operations provided annually was 20 times lower than the crucial surgical volume required to meet a country's essential surgical needs each year. African surgical patients who can get the surgery they need are also twice as likely to die after their planned surgery than the global average.

Linz said: “The solution to this daunting and complex problem will require hard work and collaboration from all stakeholders. We are hopeful that our formal collaboration with WHO will be one of those pillars in strengthening access to surgical care across Africa.”

The collaboration between Mercy Ships and WHO covers a range of activities including strengthening health systems and building the capacity of health workers, providing technical assistance to the integration of surgical, obstetric and anaesthesia services.

It also includes contributing to health infrastructure development and supplies in partner hospitals and clinics aligned with Mercy Ships programmes, and in collaboration with country priorities, as well as documenting and disseminating surgical best practices for improving the quality of care.

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