A New Hope for Poverty Stricken Benin

Video highlights from The Surgery Ship

Benin's dark past and bright future

Benin, one of Africa’s most stable democracies is a nation of rich history and bursting, colourful culture. Located on the shore, Benin has a dark past. Formerly known as “slave Coast” it was used as a port for the trade of slaves across the Atlantic.

The principle export of Benin before the mid 19th century were slaves. The Atlantic slave trade ruined the area stripping Benin of its people and de-destabilising it’s economy. So much of the transatlantic slave trade came from Benin that there is evidence of Benin culture, specifically Voodoo in black America.

Voodoo a religion pigeonholed by western society, is more than just a religious belief, it is a way of life. Originating in Benin, Voodo includes culture, philosophy, art, dance and medicine. The Voodoo world consists of 100 divinities or Voodoos and one supreme-being Mahou. Black magic and sorcery have often been affiliated with Voodoo but the people of Benin stress this is not the case. Though there is no ‘black magic’ in Voodoo but there is a prominent belief in cursing and curses. For instance in Benin, children who are born with a cleft Palate are believed to be a curse or a curse on the mother. The child is often hidden away from society by the family.

Cleft palate like many common diseases are rampant and untreated in Benin. Cleft Palate, for example is easily fixed with very a simple operation. But because Benin’s economy is severely underdeveloped it is left untreated.

Mercy Ships is a charity that brings surgery and medical care to areas where neither is affordable. The ship is fitted with operating theatres and hospital wards.

The Mercy Ship and consequently the show ‘Surgery Ship’ have given us a glimpse into the third world, a world where simple surgeries we often take for granted could save a person’s life. One such person; a child born with a cleft palate thought to be a curse on the mother, no longer needs to live in isolation thanks to the efforts of the team on the Mercy Ship.

Benin and surrounding African areas have benefited two -fold from the Mercy Ship.

A better quality of life should not be determined by where you’re born but rather should be a right for everyone.

Watch The Surgery Ship on National Geographic People Tuesday 18th of April at 7.30 pm

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