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Outreach   /  Madeleine Hetherton

The Surgery Ship

1 Ship. Thousands of people with life threatening illness. A team of medics facing life and death decisions.


Impact areas





  • DIRECTOR Madeleine Hetherton

  • PRODUCER Madeleine Hetherton, Rebecca Barry



Out on the ocean, a ship of doctors and nurses is traveling to the poorest of the poor living in West Africa. It carries life saving medical services for people who have none: children who suffer with terrible leg deformities, women outcast from their communities by birthing fistulas, vast tumors of all shapes and sizes which afflict the unlucky. With no medical help, sufferers must survive the best they can - unless the ship is in port. The ship docks in a different country every year and people come from all corners of the globe. It is the last hope for so many – and if they miss the boat, there is no other chance.

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Issue Summary

A short summary of the issue the documentary is addressing

Access to health care is a human right under Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. But in our world, there are over two billion people do not have access to essential surgical care.


What is the impact vision statement of the documentary?

The Surgery Ship documentary series is a response to the global crisis - 4.8 billion people are currently unable to access surgical care*. The series tells an urgent story of how we can change this via aid such as the Africa Mercy – a medical ship, staffed with volunteers, which travels the world to give free surgery to those who have no other chance. The film invites viewers into the lives of people who live this statistic on a daily basis.

*Lancet Commission Global Surgery


What outcomes does the project hope to achieve from making this documentary?

We wish to create long term change in global health access and provision.
- Raise awareness and leadership in Global Health – start a conversation about how to address critical lack of access to health care. Bring together policymakers, practitioners and researchers to foster evidence-based problem solving, inspire leadership and debate critical issues in global health.
- Work with Universities and Hospitals to create a set of ongoing partnerships that will connect teams of medics to hospitals in developing countries for ongoing annual training and capacity building.
- Create partnerships with large Pharmaceutical companies and technology partners with the Hospital training programs for in-kind donations of medical supplies and medicines.
- Empower groups to fundraise to support aid work groups and projects of their choosing through a vibrant ‘Host A Screening’ program


How will this documentary achieve its outcomes?

• Be a powerful catalyst for change
• Build on the success of The Surgery Ship – Seasons 1 & 2


How will partnerships with this project help inform the project development?


Audience Engagement and Social Impact

What actions does this project hope for its viewers after seeing this film?

We hope to inspire, entertain and create awareness of health crises in Africa, while providing engagement opportunities for viewers to donate, volunteer in disadvantaged communities or host fundraising screenings. These fundraising opportunities will generate finance for long-term medical training in Africa.

• Volunteer their time to help
• Give funding to organizations that fund medical care
• Support larger government foreign aid to countries in need

Measurement and Evaluation

What is the projects indicators for success?

What are your indicators for success?

• Increase in volunteers to medical aid organizations
• Increase in donations to medical aid organizations
• Higher public support for government foreign aid to countries in need
• Wide spread distribution of series across the globe
• Increased funding to support training of surgeons and medics in Africa

When our goals, as describe previously, have been realized.