Reconstructive surgery

Our volunteer facial reconstructive and plastic surgeons remove deforming tumours, correct cleft lip and palates, fix congenital abnormalities, and increase mobility for those disabled or disfigured by burn contractures, scarring, Noma, or leprosy.

Cleft Lip and Palate

Tens of thousands of children are born with cleft lip and/or palate every year. It is a genetic problem easily repaired in the developed world, but babies born in West Africa have little option for corrective surgery. Cleft-lip babies often suffer from malnourishment because they cannot suck or nurse properly. Children who do survive are often ostracized by their villages and family members because of their deformity.

Mercy Ships performs cleft-lip operations on people of all ages, from the very young to the very old. No matter the age, the smiles of joy on their new faces evidence the life-changing power of these simple surgeries.

Georges, 7 month, Liberia


Grotesque and disfiguring tumours are not uncommon in the developing countries of West Africa. Mercy Ships has performed thousands of life-changing maxillo-facial surgeries, giving many a chance at a new life, and saving some from suffocation, starvation and death.

Alfred, 17 years, Benin


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. Though both preventable and treatable, most of those afflicted with the ravenous disease have no access to even basic health care, and thousands die from the condition each year. Those who survive are left with not only disfigurement, but also experience difficulty eating, breathing and swallowing.

Mercy Ships performs numerous reconstructive facial surgeries on noma victims, affording them a chance to lead normal lives, and contributes 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.

Aissa, 7 years, Cameroun

Mercy Ships statistics

Since 1978, Mercy Ships crew has:

  • performed more than 67,000 life-changing operations such as cleft lip and palate repair, cataract removal, orthopaedic procedures, facial reconstruction and obstetric fistula repair.

Caring for Elina

Elina had been burned – literally held in open flames – in retaliation over a family dispute. She would never be the same. But on the...