Our History

  • 1956
  • Three doctors – Michael Wood, Archie 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 and remote areas. Michael, Archie and Tom saw an air-based service as the only way to get health care to remote communities.

    Archie and Tom discuss setting up an organisation to provide surgical care in East Africa as a way to get health care to remote communities.

  • 1957
  • Amref Health Africa is officially founded 1957 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
  • 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.

    Tim Rees meets with the President of Kenya, Jomo Kenyatta.

  • 1978
  • HRH Prince Charles becomes Patron of the Amref Health Africa UK office.

  • 1980s
  • 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.

    Providing health care for children

    1980: Staff provide health care for children in remote communities, including growth monitoring, immunisation and nutrition

  • Early 1990s
  • Amref Health Africa establish 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 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 needs, Amref Health Africa prioritise 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.

    Awarded the Conrad Hilton award

    1999: Amref Health Africa is awarded the Conrad Hilton Humanitarian Award.

  • 2000s
  • 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.

    Bill and Melinda Gates award

    2005: Amref Health Africa is awarded the Bill and Melinda Gates Award for Global Health, the first African organisation to do so.

  • 2005
  • 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 different African countries.

  • 2007
  • 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.


  • 2017
  • Amref Health Africa celebrates 60 years of partnering with communities in Africa, reaching around nine million people with our health-focused programmes. We have seven offices in Africa, with programmes across 35 countries, and 11 offices in Europe and North America.

    In the UK, our focus on ensuring women and girls of all ages have the knowledge, skills and means to break the cycle of poor health and povertyis still at the forefront of each and every decision we make. We currently run 20 projects across 15 countries.



Read more about Our Founders - Michael, Archie and Tom