Amref Health Africa

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Amref Health Africa (formerly the African Medical and Research Foundation) is the largest African health development non-governmental international organisation based in Africa, committed to improving health and health care in Africa. Headquartered in Nairobi,Kenya, Amref Health Africa has offices in Ethiopia, Kenya, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda, and regional hubs in Southern and West Africa based in South Africa and Senegal respectively. In addition, Amref Health Africa works in more than 30 African countries through its outreach, training and laboratory strengthening activities.

Amref Health Africa’ was founded in 1957, when three pioneering surgeons who wanted to take health care to places where there were no doctors or medical assistance used aircraft and radios to reach remote and neglected communities. They became known as the Flying Doctors of East Africa, which later evolved to become the African Medical and Research Foundation (AMREF), now known as Amref Health Africa.

Countries where Amref Health Africa works

To support its operations in Africa through fundraising and advocacy, Amref Health Africa has offices in Austria, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Monaco, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States of America, and a Nordic hub based in Sweden. The Amref Flying Doctors was converted into a company limited by guarantee in 2011 to raise funds for the organisation’s charity work.

How Amref Health Africa Works[edit]

With over half a century of experience in delivering health care and building health systems in Africa, Amref Health Africa supports those at the heart of the communities, particularly women and children, to bring about lasting health improvement. Amref Health Africa works with the people of these communities to build their knowledge, skills and means to improve their health (including health systems strengthening and capacity building). To do this, partnership and networking are key elements of Amref Health Africa’s approach. Amref Health Africa learns from, influences and partners with communities and community organisations; local and national governments and ministries of health; national and international NGOs and networks; global, regional institutions and donors to build long-term relationships and to ensure that holistic solutions are found to address the health needs of communities. Amref Health Africa is in the forefront of influencing global health policy agenda and actively participates in several global initiatives and forums to advocate for public health-related issues in Africa.


Amref Health Africa is governed by an International Board of Directors from a wide range of backgrounds, bringing a great wealth of wisdom, insight and experience to the organisation. The offices in Europe and North America also have individual Boards of Directors, while Country Offices have Advisory Councils. Mr Omari Issa is the Chair of the International Board, while Dr Githinji Gitahi is the Group Chief Executive officer of the organisation.

Business Ethics[edit]

Amref Health Africa has a zero tolerance policy towards corruption and unethical behaviour. Integrity and ethical standards expected of employees, partners, suppliers and service providers.


East African Flying Doctor Service Cessna 402B at its Nairobi (Wilson) Airport base in 1973

Amref Health Africa was founded in 1957 by three surgeons as the Flying Doctors Service of East Africa. The three doctors – Sir Michael Wood, Sir Archibald McIndoe and Tom Rees – drew up a groundbreaking plan to provide medical assistance to remote regions of East Africa, where they had all worked for many years as reconstructive surgeons. Spurred by what they had seen of the combined effects of poverty, tropical disease and a lack of adequate health services in East Africa, their collective vision was born in the foothills of Mt Kilimanjaro.At that time, there was one doctor to every 30,000 people in East Africa – in Britain it was 1:1,000. Medical facilities were sparse, with rough terrain and often impassable roads making access to medical care difficult for people in rural and remote areas. As this was where the majority of the population lived, Archie, Tom and Michael saw an air-based service as the only way to get health care to remote communities. Amref Health Africa delivered mobile health services and provided mission hospitals with surgical support. A medical radio network was developed to coordinate the service, and provide communication.


Amref Health Africa's Logo

In the early 1960s, ground-based mobile medical services were added, along with ‘flight clinics’ for the under-served and remote areas in the Kajiado and Narok districts of Kenya.


By 1975, 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. In the late 1970s, Amref Health Africa continued providing mobile clinical and maternal and child health services. It also started to focus on community-based health care and training community health workers to deliver primary health care.


During the 1980s, Amref Health Africa moved into community health development, closer collaboration with the ministries of health in the region, and cooperation with international aid agencies. This set the organisation’s course for the 1980s and beyond. Greater emphasis was given to strengthening health systems and staff development, with special attention to health needs identified by communities themselves. Amref Health Africa staff gained experience in the planning and management of health services at a national level – expertise that has since been shared in-house with health ministries (the first was Uganda).


In the early 1990s, Amref Health Africa established a unique year-long training course in community health. The 1990s also saw Amref Health Africa’s work expand to include disease control initiatives, focusing on malaria, HIV/AIDS and TB. During the mid-1990s, Amref Health Africa increased its focus on HIV/AIDS as it looked set to undo much of the progress made in health during the 20th century, and become a major burden to health systems in poor countries. During the same period, in recognition of the need for partnerships at the community level, Amref Health Africa engaged more with local groups to enable community-based planning, shared identification of issues and priorities, and efficient use of resources.

In recent years, Amref Health Africa has highlighted the fact that despite huge investments by donors in health products and delivery of health services, a large percentage of Africans still have limited access to sufficient and quality health care.


“Amref Health Africa has shown that indigenous solutions based on international science can address the toughest problems in the world, and serve as a beacon for Africa and for the world.” - The Global Health Fund

Gates Award for Global Health - 2005[edit]

The award, worth $1 million, was established in 2000 by the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, and is given annually to the organisation that they consider to have made a major and lasting contribution to the field of global health.

Medical Honors Award - 2004[edit]

Amref Health Africa received the Medical Honors Award from Discovery Health Channel, USA for its extraordinary lifesaving work of nearly 50 years in improving the health of millions of people in Africa.

Conrad Hilton Humanitarian Award - 1999[edit]

The world’s largest humanitarian award which honors tireless commitment by Amref Health Africa to bring health care services to the most remote areas of the continent. The Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize was established by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation in 1996. The annual $1.5 million award honors a charitable or non-governmental organisation that has made extraordinary contributions toward alleviating human suffering anywhere in the world.

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