Our History

  • 1956

  • Three doctors – Michael Wood, Archibald McIndoe and Tom Rees – draw 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 areas. Michael, Archie and Tom saw an air-based service as the only way to get health care to remote communities.


  • 1957
  • Amref Health Africa is officially founded in 1957 under its original name: the African Medical and Research Foundation (AMREF), to deliver mobile health services and mission hospitals with surgical support. A medical radio network is developed to coordinate the service and provide communication.


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

  • 1961

  • Amref Health Africa starts providing health services to communities in Tanzania through mobile clinics.

  • 1975

  • Training and education for rural health workers becomes a major part of Amref Health Africa's efforts. This includes the development of health learning materials.

  • Late 1970s
  • Tom Rees meets with the President of Kenya, Jomo Kenyatta.

    Understanding that women are the gatekeepers to their communities' health, Amref Health Africa focuses on improving mobile clinical and maternal and child health services across the continent. We also branch into community-based health care and training community health workers to deliver primary health care. Technical support units, family planning services and environmental health are also set up.

  • 1980s
  • Providing health care for children

    Amref Health Africa moves into community health development and collaborates closely with the Ministries of Health and international aid agencies.

    Greater emphasis is given to creating stronger health systems, with special attention to health needs identified by communities themselves. Amref Health Africa staff gain experience in planning and the management of health services at a national level – expertise that has since been shared with health ministries.


  • Early 1990s
  • Amref Health Africa establishes a unique year-long training course in community health. We also expand to include disease control initiatives, focusing on tackling malaria, HIV/AIDS and TB.

  • 1993

  • Amref Health Africa partners with numerous celebrity ambassadors to increase awareness of our cause worldwide. Here, David Bowie and Iman, collect an Amref Health Africa t-shirt at a charity auction at Christies in London.

  • 1999
  • Awarded the Conrad Hilton award

    To meet an increased health care needs, Amref Health Africa prioritizes 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 work closely with local groups to enable community-based planning, shared identification of issues and priorities, and efficient use of resources. 


    Our efforts to create sustainable health change in Africa are recognized in 1999, when we receive the Conrad Hilton Humanitarian Award (above).


  • 2005
  • Bill and Melinda Gates award

    Amref Health Africa highlights on a global stage 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. In 2005, we are awarded the Bill and Melinda Gates Award for Global Health, the first African organization to do so.


  • 2005
  • We pioneer the use of e-Learning technology to train nurses. e-Learning allows nurses to upgrade their skills while still working and providing care to their communities by accessing online training courses. Today we have over 15 active e-learning projects across eight different African countries, made for not only nurses but for midwives, community health workers, and other health workers as well.

  • 2007

  • Amref Health Africa launches their first container clinic in Turkana, Kenya, made specifically for pastoralist communities who migrate throughout the year in dry, arid land with their livestock. The container clinics are mobile and stationed along the communities' migratory routes, providing them with vital health services that they otherwise have no access to.

  • 2012
  • Amref Health Africa launches the Health Enablement and Learning Platform or HELP, with Safaricom, Mezzanine and Accenture Development Partnerships. HELP is a training and data collection platform that can be accessed using basic mobile phones, as well as any desktop or laptop computer. HELP was created for Community Health Workers, who are often the only link between remote, underserved communities and the formal helath care system. 

  • 2013
  • Nice Nailantei Leng'ete, Project Officer of our Alternative Rites of Passage Program speaking at the launch of the Clinton Global Initiative event "Addressing Harmful Practices: Female Genital Cutting (FGC) and Child Marriage"


    At the Clinton Global Initiative held during the United Nations General Assembly, Amref Health Africa signs a commitment with United Postcode Lotteries, Girls Not Brides and Tostan to address FGC and Child Marriage in Kenya and Tanzania. Today, we have helped over 11,000 girls escape FGC.

  • 2017

  • Amref Health Africa celebrates 60 years of partnering with communities in Africa to achieve lasting health change on the continent. Today, we have seven offices in Africa, with programs across 35 countries, and 11 offices in Europe and North America. In 2016 alone, we trained over 115,000 health workers and provided over 9 million people with live-changing health services.


 Learn more about the work we do today

 Help us achieve our vision of lasting health change in Africa