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AMREF awarded 2005 Gates award for its pioneering achievements in global health

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June 2, Washington, DC - The African Medical & Research Foundation (AMREF) announced today that it has been awarded the prestigious $1 million 2005 Gates Award for Global Health, the world's largest prize for international health. William H. Gates, Sr., co-chair of the Gates Foundation, will present this prestigious award at the Global Health Council's 32nd annual international conference to Professor Miriam Were, Chair of AMREF's board of directors. The Gates Award is administered by the Global Health council, and recognises extraordinary results in improving health in the developing world.

"Bill and I established this award to draw the world's attention to the greatest success stories in global health - the unsung heroes whose work has opened new doors and new possibilities for improving health in developing counties," said Melinda Gates, co-founder of the foundation. "We congratulate AMREF on its accomplishments, which are an inspiration to the world."

AMREF, selected from more than 85 nominees by a jury of international public health leaders, is being honoured for its extraordinary efforts for nearly 50 years to improve the health of Africa's poorest communities, through building local health infrastructure capacity and knowledge, health worker training, and evidence-based advocacy. AMREF's programs reach millions of people each year, and have been widely recognised and documented as some of the greatest success stories in African health.

"Health is the beacon that will lead Africa out of poverty," said Dr. Miriam Were, AMREF Chair and a community health specialist who has also worked in Africa for WHO and UNICEF. "We accept this award on behalf of the communities we work with. This is a first for Africa in the Year of Africa."

AMREF, founded in 1957 as the Flying Doctors of East Africa, is the oldest and largest health organisation based in African and run by Africans. It began life airlifting surgeons to perform emergency procedures in towns and villages with no access to hospitals; a service that continues today. Since then, AMREF has greatly expanded its scope, and today operates programs addressing HIV/AIDS and TB; malaria; clean water and sanitation; family health; training of health personnel; and emergency relief.

Said William H Gates Snr, "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 recently noted by Bill Gates in his speech to the WHO, many of Africa's health problems lie in healthcare delivery, and the gap that exists between the communities and the healthcare systems," said Dr Michael Smalley, Director General of AMREF. "This means that many people are unable to access the healthcare they need and consequently people get ill, and stay ill more often, and for longer. We plan to use the $1 million to study the nature of that gap and how best to link health facilities to the communities, to ensure good quality health care is accessed by everyone in Africa." said Dr Smalley. Ends

Notes to editors:

1. AMREF is the largest indigenous health organisation in Africa. Its mission is to improve the health of disadvantaged people in Africa as a means for them to escape poverty and improve the quality of their lives. 97% of its 600 staff are African. The web address is www.amref.org .

2. The Gates Award was established by Bill and Melinda Gates in 2000 to draw attention to some of the most effective and inspiring efforts in improving global health. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation works to promote greater equity in four areas: global health, education, public libraries and support for at-risk families in Washington state and Oregon. The Seattle-based foundation joins local, national, and international partners to ensure that advances in these areas reach those who need them most. The foundation is led by William H. Gates, Sr. and Patty Stonesifer.