Thursday, June 30, 2005

AMREF Brings The Spotlight to African Self Help Efforts.

In case you have not heard, AMREF (The African Medical & Research Foundation - See Blog at May 17, 2005 ) has been awarded the 2005 Gates Award for Global Health.

The award, which is $1 Million, was presented at the Global Health Council's Annual Conference in Washington, D.C. on June 2, 2005. Working on health issues for nearly 50 years, AMREF is recognized as one of the oldest and largest health organizations based in Africa and led by Africans.

Upon accepting the award, Miriam Were, Chair of AMREF's board, said

"It is particularly important that in this year-dubbed Africa Year due to increased focus on Africa--a deserving African organisation is honoured through this award and AMREF is delighted to be the first African organisation to win the Gates Award for Global Health. We accept the award on behalf of the communities and people across Africa with whom AMREF has worked for nearly 50 years and to whom we dedicate this award, along with our Founders, our Partners in AMREF National Offices as well as our staff, past and present. We see this award as a recognition of the determination of the people of Africa who continue working on the improvement of the quality of their lives and continuing to contribute to global well being. We deeply appreciated all those working with us from everywhere. Thank you."

Ms. Were's remarks are particularly poignant because it brings attention to "the determination of the people of Africa" to improve the quality of their lives. This is not to say that much generous assistance is received from partners outside of Africa, but Ms. Were's statement speaks against the concept that many westerners have that Africans are passively sitting and waiting for "handouts from the rest of the world."

This negative image of Africans is held by too many people in the west, even, unfortunately, among many members of the African Diaspora in the United States. African Americans who were born in the U.S. and have not had the opportunity to educate themselves regarding Africa, often accept the glib and inaccurate stereotypes of "Africans" that are too frequently portrayed in the western press.

The award of $1 Million to AMREF to continue their work indicates the awareness of the Gates Foundation - and the Global Health council, which administers the Gates Award - in recognizing the efforts being made by Africans in the area of solving global health problems.

AMREF was chosen from among the more than 85 nominees by a jury of individuals considered to be leaders in international public health leaders for its extraordinary efforts to improve the health of individuals in the developing world.

William H Gates Sr., Co-Chair of the Gates Foundation and father of the Microsoft billionaire, said of AMREF: "Being the voice of Africa is a challenge because Africa is many nations and many cultures. Being a voice for Africa is a daunting assignment. Of course, AMREF is more than a voice of Africa. It is deeds: acts of compassion, of intelligence, of purpose. They've learned how to truly improve health in Africa by asking Africans what needs to be done, and how best to do it."

As pointed out in an earlier post, AMREF was founded in 1957 as the Flying Doctors of East Africa. Initially it flew physicians and surgeons to perform emergency procedures in towns and villages with no access to hospitals. AMREF still airlifts doctors today, but it has greatly expanded its range of services.

The Nairobi-based not-for-profit organization has a staff of more than 600 physicians, nurses, researchers, nutritionists, and sanitation workers who help communities set up health systems to address many of the most serious challenges being addressed in Africa. And you can go to their web site to see their six priority areas for intervention.

Just two weeks after winning the $1 million Gates Award for Global Health, AMREF was awarded a $2.9 million grant from an American consultancy firm, the Accenture Foundation.

The award from the Accenture Foundation consists of $1.7 million in cash and $1.2 million in kind, to be used to implement a new electronic training program for nurses in Kenya.

According to AllAfrica.Com, "Accenture is a management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company with a presence in 48 countries and a workforce exceeding 110,000 people. Last year, it had total revenues of over $13.5 billion."

It is also reported "The Accenture programme, which will run for five years, will have three phases. These will be design and programme planning, which will last three months, followed by a three-month pilot initiative serving 300 nurses at five regional training centres; a six-month rollout of the full solution to all regional training centres."

It seems as if AMREF is doing something right and getting recognition for it. And just as importantly, AMREF is bringing recognition to the "Self Help" efforts of Africans to improve the lives of Africans.

Visit the AMREF web site and take a look at what they are doing at what they are doing and how they are doing it. Maybe you could even drop them an email offering your support or asking what things you could don in combination with their efforts; because we have to keep in mind that WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER.


Additional Links

The Gates Foundation

The Accenture Foundation is on the Accenture web site at:

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