Aleteia logoAleteia logoAleteia
Wednesday 29 May |
Saint of the Day: Pope St. Paul VI
Aleteia logo
Inspiring Stories
separateurCreated with Sketch.

Meet the doctor saving moms and babies in Africa


Courtesy of Maternal Life International

Dr. George Mulcaire-Jones

Theresa Civantos Barber - published on 04/14/24

A medical mission trip inspired this Montana doctor to make it his life’s work to bring lifesaving care to mothers and babies in need.

When Dr. George Mulcaire-Jones and his wife Mary traveled to Cameroon for a medical mission trip back in 1989, their lives changed forever. 

Witnessing a mother die during childbirth from untreated preeclampsia haunted the doctor. He recalled in an interview with Aleteia:

Just after midnight, I was called to the labor ward to evaluate a pregnant woman who had been brought in from a distant village after multiple seizures. She did not respond to pain or touch. Her blood pressure was 190 over 118, her face and legs were swollen, her pregnant abdomen silent. She was brain dead from unrecognized and untreated toxemia. The baby inside her womb was also dead. At that point absolutely nothing could be done. We watched in silence. The Cameroonian nurses would periodically wipe her brow. Her breathing became more irregular and after two hours she expired, and the wailing of her family began. 

Such a heartbreaking event is horribly common in parts of Africa. During a time that should be joyful, mothers are at great risk when bearing babies. 

Without skilled birth attendance, the lifetime risk of a woman dying from complications of childbirth in Africa can be as high as 1 in 38, he said, compared to 1 in 7500 in the United States.

Dr. Mulcaire-Jones and his wife eventually returned to their home in Butte, Montana, and were busy raising their five children. But a letter some years later reminded them of the great need for better obstetrical care in Africa.

He described the moment that inspired him to make it his life’s work to bring medical care to mothers and babies in under-served areas:

One day I received a letter from Sister Bernadette, the matron of a remote maternal health center in Djottin, Cameroon where I used to go to see patients periodically. Her letter began, “Dear Dr. George, the month of February was very sad. Two women died in childbirth.” Memories stirred; tears flowed. I had forgotten. The letter was the genesis of Maternal Life International, “Building a better world through safe births and secure families.” 

Today, that work he began back in 1997 has grown and thrived. Maternal Life International (MLI) is a powerful force for good in six countries: Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, and Haiti.

“Our Safe Passages program provides team-based emergency obstetrical training and life-saving equipment, from ultrasounds to identify high-risk pregnancies to anti-shock garments that stabilize women with postpartum hemorrhage,” Dr. Mulcaire-Jones said. “Safe Passages also provides training and formation in respect for the life and dignity of all persons, born and unborn – a medical culture of life.”


Saving lives in action

If you’re curious to know what kind of difference Maternal Life International makes, here is an account from Dr. Patrick Lumumba, who took part in a recent Safe Passages training in Gulu, Uganda in 2023:

A pregnant mother at term walked to the facility together with her husband. She was in latent labor. I could see the joy they had in their eyes to welcome their first born. Everything went on well until when she delivered a baby girl of 4.3kgs. She was taken for monitoring in the postnatal ward. We were of course very happy about her success.

However, about 2 hours later, our joy turned into tears, when we heard a loud voice of our nurse calling for help. When we went in, we found the woman was unconscious. She could try to speak but we would hear nothing. 

She had lost a lot of blood, and the team was able to use tools provided by MLI to assess her condition and start on IV fluids. But they did not have the resources to operate on her.

The next option was to refer her to a facility which had more resources but was about 10 miles away from our facility. It was a big risk to transfer a mother in this condition, but thankfully MLI had provided for free a device that made all the difference.

We were worried she would die on the way, however the Non-Pneumatic Anti-Shock Garment (given for free by MLI) did wonders and almost reduced bleeding to zero. She was safely referred to another facility and treated. 

I last saw her about 2 weeks ago when she brought back the baby for immunizations. They are both safe. Thanks a lot to MLI for providing us with the knowledge and the equipment without which we would have lost both the mother and the baby.

This story illustrates the kind of work MLI does and the critical lifesaving difference it makes.

Dr. Mulcaire-Jones joins a Safe Passages workshop with Maternal Life International.

Powered by faith

Dr. Mulcaire-Jones’ Catholic faith helps him carry on in this enormous and difficult work. He said:

[My work] is ultimately about God. As St. John Paul II said, “When you eclipse a sense of God you eclipse a sense of man.” In this eclipse we become our lesser selves. Africa holds on to a sense of God and shows us a way to authentic human development – through faith in Jesus and the moral wisdom of the Church. At MLI, we embrace that and join hands with our sisters and brothers in Africa who have at once great needs and beautiful treasures to share with us.

Indeed, as he describes, MLI is a true partnership between people in the US and in Africa. Besides 2 employees in the US, MLI has 10 staff facilitators in Africa: 2 couples in Uganda, 2 in Kenya, and 1 couple in Tanzania. 

The Faithful House

Another heartbreaking and unforgettable encounter added a new dimension to MLI’s work some years ago. He recalled:

Eleven years after my family’s mission term in Cameroon ended, I returned and visited Djottin again. Much was the same, the rutted dirt roads, the dedication of the Sisters, the pediatric ward stacked with cases of malaria and pneumonia. A few steps from the pediatric ward, another reality emerged. The first patient in the female ward was a 28-year-old woman with three children and her mother by her side. Her brown skin hung loosely over her skeletal frame. She had a purple dye splashed into her mouth. As I spoke to her, her soft brown eyes drifted to the ceiling. She had scribbled her name in ink on her forearm. Her name was Immaculate. Immaculate was dying of AIDS, in a remote, unknown corner of the universe with no medications, no hospice care and no understanding of what was happening to her. I could only offer to her the pidgin English word, “Asha,” which means “I see you are carrying a heavy load.” Asha, Immaculate, Asha. . . from the depths of my heart, Asha. 

There were thousands upon thousands of “Immaculates.” I saw them in hospital wards in Swaziland, Malawi, Uganda and Nigeria. At the peak of the HIV epidemic, there were 9000 people dying of AIDS each day; yet each day there were 14,000 new infections, 50% occurring in married couples. The only vaccine available to stop HIV wasn’t biological, but social and relational: behavior change through abstinence before marriage and faithfulness within marriage. In public health terminology, “reducing multiple concurrent partnerships.” 

In response, together with their leadership team in Uganda and a partnership with Catholic Relief Services, MLI developed a program called “The Faithful House”: 

The Faithful House uses the metaphor of building a simple African house to build marriage: a foundation in God, four pillars of love, faithfulness, respect and communication, the walls of properly ordered values, the windows of forgiveness, the roof of consciousness and reason. The Faithful House has been transformative. The term “Faithful House couple” has emerged in communities and parishes — marking a couple who is working together, walking hand in hand, sharing domestic tasks, improving their food security and parenting and as one participant put it, “chasing poverty out of our homes.” 

Over 250,000 couples have been reached with The Faithful House (TFH).

Its transformative effect can be seen in its documented results:

  • Before TFH training, 63% of participants said the wife was responsible for household tasks. Afterward, 94% said both were responsible. 
  • Before TFH training, 12% of participants said that both husband and wife were responsible for deciding whether to have sexual relations. Afterward, 94% said both were responsible.
  • At 6 months, infidelity dropped five-fold in the TFH group while nearly doubling in a control group.
  • Domestic Violence dropped from 61% to 36%.

TFH continues to grow in multiple countries in Africa and has become the platform for other programs MLI has developed for improving family health and well-being. 

These programs include a simplified method of Natural Family Planning tailor-made for Africa, called “The Couple Bead Method,” and “The Journey of A Thousand Days,” which provides education and support for the most critical time of human development, from conception through the first two years of life. 

If you’d like to help support their work, you can find out how to help on their website

The work of MLI is just the best kind of news, the kind of positive change to which we love to call attention here at Aleteia. 

We are rooting for their continued success in saving moms and babies!

AfricaHealth and WellnessMedicinePregnancy
Enjoying your time on Aleteia?

Articles like these are sponsored free for every Catholic through the support of generous readers just like you.

Help us continue to bring the Gospel to people everywhere through uplifting Catholic news, stories, spirituality, and more.

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...

Top 10
See More
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.