A Christian hospital ship which sails to some of the poorest nations in the world offering free medical and long-term development help is arriving in Liverpool tomorrow for the start of a two week UK visit. M/V Anastasis, has recently been treating women in Sierra Leone suffering from Vesico-vaginal fistula (VVF). The condition is caused by prolonged labour resulting in internal tearing, which, if left untreated, leaves women suffering from permanent incontinence. Throughout Africa many women with this condition are rejected by their families and end up on the streets. According to the UN, between 50,000 and 100,000 women are affected each year. Mercy Ships, an interdenominational charity staffed by volunteer doctors, nurses and crews, provides women with free operations, repairing the VVFs and allowing the women to live normal lives once again. The charity is also training national doctors to perform the operation and medical staff to provide the vital post-operative care. During its latest seven-month stint in Sierra Leone, Mercy Ships carried out 90 VVF operations, but the long-term legacy of treatment and preventative care should see thousands more women benefit over time. Dr Brian Hancock, a Mercy Ships surgeon from the UK, said that an obstruction could occur if the child's head is too large, the woman's pelvis is too narrow, or the child is positioned the wrong way. In the West the woman would undergo a caesarean section at the hospital. In Africa, the woman, often attended by a traditional birth attendant, have to endure very painful labour, often for days. Many women die of exhaustion, but if they survive they are often left with WF. For more information on ship's visit, call Mercy Ships UK on 0870 321 6777 or visit www.touramercyship.org.uk or for more general information regarding the charity, www.mercyships.org.
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