Three doctors – Michael Wood, Archibald McIndoe and Tom Rees – drew up a ground-breaking plan to provide medical assistance to remote regions of East Africa.
Spurred by what they had seen of the combined effects of poverty, tropical disease and a lack of adequate health services, their vision was born in the foothills Mount Kilimanjaro.
At that time, there was one doctor to every 30,000 people in East Africa. Medical facilities were sparse and impassable roads made access to medical care difficult for people in rural and remote areas. Archie, Tom and Michael saw an air-based service as the only way to get health care to remote communities.
1956: Drs. Michael Wood, Archibald McIndoe and Tom Rees discuss setting up an organization to provide surgical care in East Africa.
Amref Health Africa was officially founded in 1957 to deliver mobile health services and mission hospitals with surgical support. A medical radio network was developed to coordinate the service, and provide communication.
Ground-based mobile medical services were added, along with ‘flight clinics’ for the under-served and remote areas in Kajiado and Narok districts of Kenya.
Amref Health Africa providing health services to communities in Tanzania through mobile clinics.
By the mid-1970s, training and education for rural health workers were already a major part of Amref Health Africa's efforts. This included the development of health learning materials.
- Late 1970s
Amref Health Africa continued providing mobile clinical and maternal and child health services. We also started to focus on community-based health care and training community health workers to deliver primary health care. Technical support units, maternal and child health, family planning and environmental health were also set up.
1972: Tim Rees meets with the President of Kenya, Jomo Kenyatta.
HRH Prince Charles becomes Patron of the Amref Health Africa UK office.
Amref Health Africa moved into community health development, closer collaboration with the Ministries of Health in the region, and cooperation with international aid agencies.
Greater emphasis was given to creating stronger health systems, with special attention to health needs identified by communities themselves. Amref Health Africa staff gained experience in planning and the management of health services at a national level – expertise that has since been shared with health ministries.
1980: Providing health care for children in remote communities, including growth monitoring, immunization and nutrition
- Early 1990s
Amref Health Africa established a unique year-long training course in community health. We also expanded to include disease control initiatives, focusing on malaria, HIV/AIDS and TB.
Amref Health Africa partners with numerous celebrity ambassadors to increase awareness of our cause worldwide. Here, David Bowie and Iman, collect an Amref t-shirt at a charity auction at Christies, London.
- Mid 1990s
To meet an increased health care need, Amref Health Africa prioritised research, capacity building and advocacy relating to: HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted infections, TB, malaria, clean water and basic sanitation, family health, clinical services, training and health learning materials.
In recognition of the need for partnerships at the community level, Amref Health Africa worked closely with local groups to enable community-based planning, shared identification of issues and priorities, and efficient use of resources.
1999: Amref Health Africa is awarded the Conrad Hilton Humanitarian Award.
In recent years, Amref Health Africa has highlighted the fact that despite significant investments by donors in health products and delivery of health services, many people in Africa still have limited access to sufficient and quality health care.
Our current strategy focuses on finding ways to link health services to the people that need them most by focusing more on people, and less on diseases.
2005: Amref Health Africa is awarded the Bill and Melinda Gates Award for Global Health, the first African organization to do so.
Keen on utilising advancements in technology, in 2005, we roll out our e-learning programme, designed to train health professionals. By 2012-13 we have 15 active e-learning projects across eight African countries.
Amref Health Africa launches their first container clinic in Turkana, Kenya. The container clinics are a vital resource for the pastoralist communities that live and work off the land in this remote, marginalised area.
Amref Health Africa celebrates 60 years of partnering with communities in Africa for lasting health change, reaching about 9 million people with our health-focused programs. We now have seven offices in Africa (with reach in 35 countries), and 11 offices in Europe and North America. We are the largest African-based international organization on the continent.
Since 1957, our way of working has been: “African solutions for African health challenges.”