Missionary Health Services in East Africa 

Missionary Health Services in East Africa

The Christian missionaries were the pioneers of health services of East Africa just as they were pioneers of education. It should be noted that the early missionaries in East Africa considered health services to be very necessary to them selves and to the people of East Africa in order to convert them to Christianity.

Missionary Efforts in the Provision of Medical Services In East Africa
  • They established health oriented organization in order to carry on their work e.g. sight by wings.
  • They also put up health centers inform of clinics, dispensaries and hospitals from where they offered medical services to the East Africans e.g. Bagamoyo hospital, Mengo hospital etc.
  • They provided the necessary technical personnel’s inform of doctors and nurses who looked after the patients. E.g. Dr Albert cook at Mengo hospital and his wife nurse Timpson.
  • Missionaries provided medical facilities in form of medicine, medical beds and other laboratory equipments that were used to offer quality services to the people. E.g. in 1897, Mengo hospital had 28 beds and by 1901 they had increased to 75 beds.
  • They carried out missionary health journeys by visiting the sick people so as to treat them. E.g. Dr. Albert cook went to Ankole from Buganda for that purpose.
  • They trained some Africans in medical services and put up medical schools for this purpose e.g. by 1958, there were 86 male and female nurses trained by missionaries in Tanganyika.
  • They carried out research on African diseases such as malaria and leprosy and tried to find the appropriate vaccine to cure such diseases.
  • Missionaries provided special needs education to the blind i.e.they treated the blind and at the same time taught them. E.g. in Kenya there was 5 primary and 7 secondary schools for the blind by 1972.
  • The church had a special mobile all time health services for those needed them in East Africa and this has survived up to date. E.g. sight by wings has got a mobile air craft that serves Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania.
  • They worked with their governments to offer health services in East Africa e.g. with the help of the government, they founded Kilimanjaro Christian medical centre near Moshi in Tanzania in 1971.
  • Missionary doctors offered charity services to the needy by using their common private resources to save the sick from dying.
  • They used the church to preach and teach against African herbal medicines some of which were actually dangerous and could cause health complications to the Africans.
  • They provided western formal education with the major aim of changing the minds of Africans and convince them to start taking western medicine.
  • Missionaries provided funds/money for the establishment and smooth running of the health services in East Africa.
  • Today missionaries have established links with the Greek health centers abroad to assist East Africans e.g. sight by wings offers a useful link of obtaining flash eyes from the eye bank in Hayward centre in England.
Problems Faced By Missionaries in Provision of Health Services In East Africa
  • They faced a problem of inadequate finances to buy the healthy equipment needed for the provision of quality health services.
  • They also had a problem of limited number of workers to work as doctors and nurses yet the number of patients was too big.
  • They faced a challenge of inadequate medical facilities like laboratory equipments which were very few in their health institutions.
  • They had shortage of medicine and delayed supply of medical facilities from Britain.
  • They had a problem of Africans who strongly believed in their African medicine changing them to take western medicine was a big problem.
  • Slave raids and its insecurity greatly affected the missionary work of treating sick in East Africa.
  • They had a problem of tropical diseases like malaria which killed some of them while in East Africa. For example Dr. Albert cook died of malaria.
  • There was lack of infrastructures inform of health centers like hospitals which also negatively affected the work of treating the sick.
  • Many Africans had a negative attitude towards European medicine thinking that it was intended to cause more health problems to them.
  • Poor roads in remote area were another problem. Missionaries could not reach out to the sick in some areas due to their remoteness.
  • The strong African cultures, conservation and rigidities among Africans were all challenges to missionary doctors.
  • The belief in the miraculous healing among African Christians also interfered with the missionary work of providing health services to Africans.


  1. Explain the role of the missionaries in trying to provide medical services to the people of East Africa. (13 marks)
  2. Discuss the obstacles the missionaries faced in their effort to provide medical services. (12 marks)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *