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MCAI History

MCAI is an international maternal and child healthcare charity dedicated to improving the quality of life for seriously ill and injured pregnant women, children and babies in countries where there is extreme poverty.  Our volunteer experienced doctors, midwives and nurses work with, support and train local health workers. We advocate for better and integrated healthcare in hospitals and in the community. With improved training, care, medicines, equipment and facilities, in combination with strong advocacy, we can help to improve the quality of many lives and prevent avoidable deaths.


MCAI was founded in 1995 as a response to the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. One of our founder members, Dr David Southall, a Professor of Paediatrics, had worked in the country for two years as a consultant for UNICEF, attending to ill and injured children and witnessing first-hand the horrors of war and the suffering that took place. Upon his return to the UK, Dr Southall set up MCAI.


When MCAI’s work in Bosnia began in 1995, health services had either been destroyed or greatly disrupted and therefore we began our work by undertaking an emergency programme evacuating 41 ill and injured children to the UK for urgent medical and surgical treatment, without which many of them would have died. Once the country became stabilised, long term development work was undertaken to build up the health service and we established paediatric and neonatal intensive care units in hospitals in Sarajevo and other cities, trained medical and nursing staff and renovated and equipped children’s wards.​

Two years later, we expanded into other countries and set up a variety projects designed to enhance the public healthcare systems for women and children. We began in Albania and then, observing the explosion of deaths and suffering primarily from HIV and AIDS, we started work in sub-Saharan Africa.  Initially, and in addition to work on strengthening emergency care in the neonatal and children’s wards in Makerere University Hospital in Uganda, we set up an  outreach palliative care project for orphaned children who had HIV/AIDS and in Zambia a project in Lusaka identified and treated children with severe malnutrition from 4 of the poorest communities there. Over subsequent years, we worked in Afghanistan, Cameroon,  India, Liberia, Pakistan, and The Gambia on projects to improve the public healthcare services for pregnant women and girls, infants and children. We provided emergency medical care for families suffering the effects of armed conflict in Kosovo, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. In Pakistan we also worked with survivors of the earthquake and flooding. In Sri Lanka we assisted with the aftermath of the Asian tsunami. We remained in Kosovo after the initial conflict ended, working on long-term projects.


​Based on our experience on the ground, advocacy has been a central theme of MCAI’s work. The link to advocacy summarises advances made as a result of this vital aspect of our programmes and our published academic papers, which discuss many aspects of thisfocus, can all be downloaded here.


In collaboration with the medical education charity, the Advanced Life Support Group (ALSG), we have produced teaching materials including books, CDs and DVDs, pocketbooks and films which are all freely available on this website.


Using a quality improvement approach to healthcare, based on human rights,MCAI has been responsible for developing manuals and toolkits thatcan be used to improve the healthcare provided to pregnant women and girls, new born infants and children.  Here are links to the child friendly healthcare initiative and the maternal and child focused initiative.


Currently MCAI is working in Cameroon, Liberia and The Gambia, and continues to support programmes set up by affiliated organisations, CAI Pakistan and CAI Uganda.

This short film illustrates some of the work of MCAI.  It starts with the situation for children in Bosnia during the war.  Subsequently there is footage concerning MCAI's work with Afghan refugees in Pakistan.  Finally there are images from the palliative care work undertaken in Uganda prior to the availability of anti-retroviral drugs.

Secretary of State for Defence letter acknowledging MCAI's work in Afghanistan and Pakistan

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