Home > News > Enabling an Effective and Efficient Response to COVID-19 through the Missionary Approach to Development

A project of the Medical Missionaries of Mary in West Africa to raise awareness about mask-wearing and proper hand-washing technique during the COVID-19 pandemic.


The COVID-19 pandemic continues to take an extensive toll throughout the world in terms of lives lost, economic impact, and over-burdened healthcare systems. But the impact it is having on people in marginalised communities in the Global South is especially harsh.

For Misean Cara members, the global pandemic has added significant challenges to how they deliver their services, often requiring extraordinary measures and innovation. Despite the additional obstacles, the unique development model used by missionaries—the ‘Missionary Approach to Development Interventions’ (MADI)—has enabled missionaries worldwide to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic with very little interruption.

On 29th October 2020  Misean Cara Health Project Officer, Niamh Caffrey, presented a talk entitled ‘Missionary Approach to Development – Enabling an Effective and Efficient Response to COVID-19’ at a roundtable session of the Development Studies Association of Ireland 2020 conference “Humanitarianism in Action”.  Shared below are highlights from Niamh’s presentation of how the approach to COVID-19 used by Medical Missionaries of Mary (MMM) in Angola, Benin and Nigeria, has been informed by the unique aspects of the MADI framework:

Crossing Boundaries: both geographically, drawing from knowledge of their global congregation, and across religious and cultural boundaries to ensure equal access to the continuum of care during COVID-19.

Long-Term Commitment: the MMMs have been working in West Africa for 83 years, accumulating decades of knowledge and experience, and establishing relationships of profound trust with communities. The COVID-19 crisis is one in a long line of challenges they have lived through in solidarity with people, including Lassa fever, civil war and protracted conflict.

Holistic Approach: this allows for a focus on the entire person. In addition to medical care, this includes child protection and safeguarding, provision of food and support to families who have lost their income during the pandemic, along with psychosocial support to those affected.

Prophetic Vision: working where need is greatest regardless of budgetary or political considerations. Missionaries respond to people’s urgent needs immediately when they arise, dealing with an evolving situation while working to mobilise resources at the same time.

Personal Witness: living in some of the poorest and most marginalized communities, missionaries show a high level of dedication to their work and strong technical expertise, a simple lifestyle and solidarity with the poor. Missionaries are trusted and respected community members, which allows them to challenge rumours and myths relating to COVID-19, particularly dangerous “treatments” for the virus. Unlike other NGOs, missionaries are not seen as outsiders bringing outside solutions, but work from a grassroots level within a community that knows and respects them.

The Missionary Approach to Development Interventions model.


Projects of the Medical Missionaries of Mary in West Africa to raise awareness about COVID-19, mask-wearing, social distancing, and proper hand-washing technique during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read more here about Misean Cara members’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the extraordinary lengths that missionaries are going to uphold the dignity and welfare of communities in need.

To support Misean Cara and its members in their work for MISSION COVID-19 please find out more here.