Microfinance is considered one of the most effective development tools; however, it can not work alone. In order to be successful, a microfinance institution must work in conjunction with a good education system, adequate health care, proper infrastructure, and transparent governance and law. Similarly, health care can not work in isolation, and will be more effective when combined with the above factors, especially microfinance.
Mercy Ships is a mobile hospital that travels to some of the neediest countries to provide quality health care. Their main mission is to provide hope and healing to the poor by mobilizing people and resources worldwide. Although the services that Mercy Ships provide are free, a surgery can often be financially debilitating for the family. It will require transportation costs to get to the ship and necessitate at least one family member being out of work for the duration of the recovery.
In a new pilot program, Mercy Ships is partnering with MEDIC to provide microfinance opportunities to its patients. A micro-loan group of Mercy Ship patients will be formed, and then they will attend 12 sessions in micro-business management. After they complete the training sessions, they will receive their loan in two payments. Not only will the loan groups act as guarantees for each other, they can also provide moral support while recovering from their surgeries.
Elom Ladjebo, from Togo, was one of the clients to go through the first roster of microloan recipients. After she received her free surgery from Mercy Ships to remove the tumor in her neck, the sales from her clothes selling business plummeted due to her extended absence. She was dealing with the social stigma related to disease in West Africa, low self esteem, and lack of business skills. After completing the MEDIC microcredit training, she has gained the business skills and confidence to make her business successful. Elom has moved to a better location and is looking forward to the future of her clothing store.
As of now, the first 30 clients in Togo have successfully finished their training sessions, and 40 new clients are about to begin. By providing quality health care, and reliable financial services and training, this partnership has the possibility to transform lives. Both MEDIC and Mercy Ships are pleased with the results to date, and are looking forward to more success stories in the future!