The Clinical and Surgical Outreach Program is Amref Health Africa’s oldest. The program—also known as "the Flying Doctors"—was established in 1957 by the organization’s founding surgeons: Archibald McIndoe, Michael Wood, and Thomas Rees; to take essential medical and surgical services to rural and underserved hospitals across eastern Africa. Today, using light aircraft, commercial flights, and road transport, we visit more than 155 hospitals on planned circuits, two to six times per year, providing both specialist surgical services and training for local health professionals to improve their surgical skills and patient care.
Regular outreach visits are conducted in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia and South Sudan with specialized medical and surgical missions held in Senegal and the Democratic Republic of Congo, providing specialized and often life-altering services to some of the most disadvantaged groups across Africa.
Amref Health Africa is one of the primary providers of fistula repair and education in East Africa. Each year, 50,000-100,000 women worldwide, with the largest share in sub-Saharan Africa, are affected by obstetric fistula, a devastating condition caused by difficult, prolonged childbirth that results in tears between the vagina and rectum or bladder, creating a hole in the birth canal. Women living with fistula suffer from constant incontinence, shame, and extreme alienation from their families and communities.
We operate free, mobile fistula repair camps that go directly to poor communities and hospitals in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and South Sudan. These camps run longer than normal outreach visits, allowing more women in remote regions to reach them for treatment.
To help prevent fistula, we also train local health workers to provide quality maternal health care services. Nurses and midwives learn to promote and provide quality care visits during pregnancy, identify and manage pregnancy complications, and perform emergency cesarean sections.
This circuit provides reconstructive surgery to adults and children with severe burns, hand and foot disabilities, leprosy disfigurement, and other debilitating conditions. Through a partnership with Smile Train, we also perform cleft lip and palate reconstruction. Approximately 10,000 infants are born with cleft lip and palate throughout East Africa each year. The partnership also allows us to promote these surgical services through radio interviews, television interviews and brochures that let communities know when and where the services will be available to them.
The circuit regularly covers 34 hospitals in Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Uganda, South Sudan, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Chad and Rwanda. We also conduct workshops that provide both formal and informal training for local surgeons to perform these operations.
“The operations make a big difference to the lives of my patients. Most of them have suffered a long time, often since birth."
Dr. Asrat Mengiste, Reconstructive Surgeon & Regional Manager, Medical Services & Clinical Outreach Program