Amref Health Africa (formerly the African Medical and Research Foundation – AMREF) was founded in 1957 by three surgeons as the Flying Doctors of East Africa.Three doctors – Sir Michael Wood, Sir Archibald McIndoe and Tom Rees – drew up a plan to provide medical care in East Africa, where they had all worked for many years as reconstructive surgeons.
Amref Health Africa was founded in 1957 as a mobile air-based service. Land-based services and mobile clinics were added in the early 1960s. Training for local health care providers was gradually added. This included the development of health learning materials and a focus on community-based 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.
In the early 1990s, Amref Health Africa introduced a one-year community health training programme. The 1990s also saw Amref Health Africa’s work expand to focus on preventative measures against malaria, HIV/AIDS, and tuberculosis. 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.
In March 2018, Amref Health Africa and GE Healthcare became partners for improving primary and referral care on reducing preventable maternal and infant mortality