Transforming communities from within to impact health systems

AMREF recognized for outstanding work for women and children

24 APRIL 2012 | ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA — In recognition of incredible progress made transforming communities from within to tackle such daunting challenges as maternal mortality, PMNCH member organization The African Medical and Research Foundation (AMREF) has received the World Federation of Public Health Associations 2012 Organizational Award. Every three years this honour is bestowed upon an organization for outstanding achievements in and contributions to the field of public health.

AMREF is Africa’s largest international health NGO, founded in 1957 originally as the Flying Doctors of East Africa to provide critical health care to remote communities in this region.

The award was presented to Dr Teguest Guerma, AMREF’s Director General, at the World Congress on Public Health in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Accepting the honour, Dr Guerma stated that AMREF serves the most vulnerable people in order to achieve lasting health change in Africa. “We believe that the power to transform Africa’s health lies within its communities. We therefore work side by side with the people to build their knowledge and skills, so that they can transform their own health,” she emphasized.

She observed that AMREF’s credibility with local communities and African governments stems from the relationship and trust that AMREF has built over the past 55 years, which includes learning from, influencing and partnering with various stakeholders to build long-term relationships and ensure solutions are holistic and address the breadth of the communities’ health needs. She gave an example of Ethiopia, where AMREF pioneered a Clinical and Surgical Outreach program in 2006, partnering with the Ministry of Health, the Gynaecology Society of Ethiopia, the Surgical Society of Ethiopia, and Addis Ababa University to increase access by disadvantaged communities to quality medical, surgical, and diagnostic services. Each hospital in the program is visited every three or four months, with specialists staying in the hospitals for up to a week, dealing with cases ranging from plastic and reconstructive surgery, to urology and orthopaedics and at the same time transferring skills to local health workers.

Dr Guerma noted that AMREF’s recognition in the public health arena also stems from the fact that AMREF strengthens health systems, particularly at community level, and develops human resources for health to alleviate the critical shortage of skilled health workers in Africa. AMREF has trained over 500,000 community health workers, mid-level health workers, and leaders of health institutions from over 33 African countries, she said, adding that eLearning, mLearning and ICT-based methodologies have been applied to rapidly and cost-effectively scale up training of the health workforce.

AMREF’s focus on women and children, who are central in transforming communities from within, has seen it launch an international awareness campaign called Stand Up for African Mothers, said the Director General. She explained that the campaign aims to train 15,000 midwives by 2015, in order to contribute to reduction of maternal mortality in Africa by up to 25 per cent.