New dates were released today for the Africa Mercy, the ship that has been undergoing a refit since it was donated to Mercy Ships in 1999. It seems that it should be completed by the end of November – only two months away now. After sea trials and crew training it should sail to West Africa at the end of January, meeting up with the Anastasis in Ghana by mid February. The handover will take a month, and then the Africa Mercy will sail to Monrovia, Liberia, to commence life as a medical relief ship. I guess this will also herald the demise of the Anastasis.
It will be almost 8 years since the Africa Mercy joined the Mercy Ships fleet, a fleet that will no longer exist once the Anastasis has been scrapped. The cost of refitting the ship to become a floating hospital and accommodation unit for relief workers has run over $50 million (US), making the purchase price of $5 million seem almost negligible. The financial burden has almost ruined Mercy Ships, and has meant the rationalisation of every area of expenditure to free up funds for the new ship. In addition, I believe that the same burden has brought about a fundamental change in the identity of Mercy Ships – from the maritime division of global missionary organisation (YWAM) to an independent, self determining, small but exclusive humanitarian relief organisation (Mercy Ships).
Only time will tell how the organisation develops in the future…
Meanwhile, an e-news update from International Medical Corps (IMC) today told their story of medical relief in Sierra Leone, providing primary health care to Liberian refugees in camps previously run by Medecins sans Frontieres. IMC is one of dozens of NGOs in West Africa busy with the seemingly endless task of mopping up the effects of warring peoples. The Anastasis is engaged in work among the poor in peaceful Ghana just now, but with the advent of the Africa Mercy will join the fray in Liberia.