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Mercy Ships, the world’s largest civilian hospital ship, has made a major contribution in coastal sub-Saharan Africa by providing state-of-the-art surgical care to some of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people who might otherwise have no access at all to any surgery. By investing in local healthcare infrastructure and by training local personnel, Mercy Ships contributes to local capacity-building. By the very nature of the work it does, it has the additional potential to provide a unique setting for research. The three analyses and two research papers published in this themed supplement of BMJ Global Health have taken advantage of this fact and show how valuable research is possible in non-governmental organisations (NGOs), like Mercy Ships.1–5
The Lancet Commission on Investing in Health pointed to ‘the possibility of achieving dramatic gains in global health by 2035 through a grand convergence around infectious, child, and maternal mortality; major reductions in the incidence and consequences of non-communicable diseases and injuries; and the promise of universal coverage’.6 It is my personal opinion—an opinion supported by the conclusions of the Disease Control Priorities, Third Edition: Essential Surgery volume, 7 and the Lancet Commission on Global Surgery8—that this lofty goal will not be achieved in low-income and …
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