The Mercy Ships plastic surgery team provides relief from pain and disfigurements through specialised surgical interventions. Our medical volunteers treat patients for severe wound scars, benign tumours, chronic ulcers, and burn contractures, a tightening of the skin that restricts movement which are prevalent in countries where machetes and open cooking fires are part of daily life.
According to the WHO, an estimated 195,000 deaths each year are caused by burns—the vast majority occurring in low- and middle-income countries. Many Africans cook with open fires, boiling water and oil in open air. People, very often children, can be severely burned in accidents involving these fires, resulting in scarring that reduces the mobility of limbs. Many cases of severe burns require skin transplants to release burn contractures and restore range of motion.
Not seen in the Western world since concentration camps, noma, or cancrum oris, is an infectious disease destroying oro-facial tissues. Predominantly affecting children, the disease advances quickly, spreading to the nose, lips and cheeks. About 70-90% of noma cases are fatal in the absence of care with Africa remaining the hardest-hit continent (Source: WHO).
Though preventable and treatable, most of those afflicted with this flesh-eating disease have no access to the basic health care needed, and thousands die from the condition each year. Those who survive are not only disfigured, but also have difficulty eating, breathing and swallowing.
Mercy Ships performs numerous reconstructive facial surgeries on noma victims, affording them a chance to lead normal lives. We contribute to the eradication of noma through community health education, dental programs and water and sanitation teaching. Poverty, malnutrition, poor oral hygiene, lack of sanitation, and diseases, particularly measles, all contribute to the risk of noma.