THE AFRICAN AMERICAN* ISLAMIC INSTITUTE
A NOMINATION BY THE UNITED NATIONS POPULATION
Established in a country struggling to meet the basic health needs of its population, the African American Islamic Institute
(AAII) has become one of the foremost advocates of improved quality of life through improved healthcare. Collaborating with
government, Civil society, NGO's and other non-profit organizations it has measurably improved the health and well being of
populations in Senegal and the African Region. It is a pleasure and honor to nominate them for the 2001 Bill Gates Award for
Global Health. In the following Information, we will attempt to share the insight, enthusiasm and respect we have acquired
for this organization and its leadership.
The African American Islamic Institute (AAII) is an international Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), based in Senegal,
West Africa. Supported by a large volunteer base, it has a membership of 500,000 in eleven countries. AAII is dedicated to
improving the quality of life for all families regardless of race, creed or economic status. AAII employs a holistic approach
to human development. At its center is the philosophy that all human beings have the right to reach their full potential,
and their environment should be free of artificial barriers. In order to achieve this end, healthy minds, bodies and spirits
must be a priority.
Driven by this philosophy and the visionary leadership of the Honorable Shaykh Hassan Ali Cisse, world renowned Islamic
scholar and humanitarian, AAII initially identified the needs of its community in the Kaolack Region of Senegal. In
1986, Shaykh Hassan Ali Cisse, Chairman and Founder, formally organized AAII to pursue the promotion of quality health care
among decision-makers, policy-makers and the grass-roots population, instilling a new value in the hearts of those he lobbied.
He was able to mobilize resources across his sphere of influence and contribute greatly to making health a priority for his
country and its people.
Reaching out to his tens of millions of adherents and their constituents around the globe, he has been able to work with
global efforts in the development field in a very effective way.
In the process of successfully advocating health issues of concern to local, regional, and national communities, AAII grasped
the magnitude of the problems facing the global community. It realized this task would require cooperation at all levels and
implemented into its agenda "partnership building". Formalizing relationships with over 135 international, national and local
organizations including the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the United Nations Economic and Social Council (UNECOSOC),
the United Nations Dept. Of Public Information (UNDPI), World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations International Children's
Education Fund (UNICEF) and the Ministry of Health of Senegal, AAII enhanced its effectiveness in meeting the demands of public
One example of effective partnering is in its information dissemination activities. AAII's mandate for its consultative
status with the UNDPI is satisfied in an annual conference currently in its fifteenth year. Utilizing health issues as an
annual conference theme, AAII addresses such topics as AIDS and Prevention ; Malaria : An International Call for its Eradication,
the Reproductive Rights of Women and Girls ; FGM and call for its eradication the Dangers of Drugs, Alcohol and Tobacco and
the Globalization of Health Care. The average conference attendance is 50,000 participants. Implementing effective public
relations strategies, AAII utilizes international television, radio, newspapers and the Internet to carry the conference address,
reinforcing the message to millions of people for significant periods following the conference date.
PROMOTION OF SOUND HEALTH POLICIES AND ACCESS:
A TWO PRONGED FOCUS
In the late 1980's, AAII identified the need to provide access to quality health care for an under served population in
the rural regions of Senegal. In partnership with health care providers from the United States, AAII facilitated ad hoc primary
health care three times per year for approximately eight years. As the demand grew, the need to construct a permanent facility
and institutionalize healthcare became evident. In a collaborative effort with UNFPA, AAII designed and constructed a model
facility located in Medina-Baye Kaolack, Senegal in 1997 known as the Shifa Al Asqam (Healers of Sickness) Medical Social
Understanding the unique situation presented to them, AAII is striving to create a model institution, not just for Senegal
but with hopes for all the Sub-Sahara. Its goal is to provide comprehensive medical care, applying the latest practices and
innovative programs. Involving the community it serves, it has developed education and training programs to meet the health
needs and concerns of its beneficiaries. Working with little outside assistance to date, AAII draws on its vast volunteer
base for expertise to compensate for its limited financial resources.
Focusing on women and children, AAII has elevated their status and improved the well being of families. Serving a target
population of more than 100,000 medically under served, from a variety of international/cultural backgrounds, the Shifa al
Asqam Medical Center provides primary care in the following areas: prenatal care, obstetric services, treatment for malaria,
tuberculosis, cholera, meningitis, malnutrition and chronic illnesses. It also provides primary dental services such as education
and prevention and extractions. In collaboration 'with the Ministry of Health, the Center provides vaccinations against measles,
mumps, rubella, whooping cough, polio, tetanus, yellow fever and hepatitis. It provides over 4800 vaccinations annually. As
a result of its breast-feeding initiatives, immunization program and prenatal services, Shifa Al Asqam was the first in the
country to receive the baby friendly designation issued by UNICEF.
The Center is a focal point for health related activities such as education and prevention, social services and training.
The training program has benefited nurses, midwives, and health assistants from many nations including the United States.
It has a strong volunteer base that draws doctors and health care professionals from Nigeria, Ghana, The Gambia, France, Sweden,
Germany and the United States.
AAII is currently managing through the center a national program dedicated to the distribution of medicines and supplies
donated by AMERICARES, a US based relief organization. Up to five 20 to 40 foot containers are received per year and distributed
to hospitals and clinics nationally and where permissible internationally.
The impact of Shifa Al Asqam can be seen in measurable indicators: a fifty percent (50%) decrease in maternal mortality
within its target population, a forty-three percent (43%) increase in the rate of immunizations among infants and children,
and improved access to adequate health care for the general population.
A NEW VISION: INTEGRATlON OF HEALTH AND SUSTAINABLE
While strengthening its position in the community of health care providers, AAII strives to meet the basic needs of its
region: education, access to clean water, and economic empowerment. Determined to be innovative, AAII is integrating health
care concerns and services within its new and ongoing sustainable development projects.
In a bold move this past March, AAII in collaboration with the St. Christopher School of Medicine in Naples, Florida (USA)
and established a School of Medicine in the capital of Dakar, Senegal. Sanctioned by the World Health Organization, the Medical
School will contribute significantly to the development of human resources in the health field in Senegal and throughout the
AAII has also collaborated with the Ministry of Education and developed a literacy program for women. Over 4600 women have
been taught to read and write in their local languages: Wolof, Pular and Serer. As an end product they assist in the publication
of a monthly newsprint called Warri which is distributed throughout villages in the Kaolack Region. Weaved throughout
the curriculum and the publication are various health related issues.
In 1996 AAII established the Kossi/Atlanta Water Project, an off-shoot of a resettlement project, distributing potable
water as far away as 100 km to fifteen villages. It takes this opportunity to inform communities about the procedures in,
and benefits to, maintaining safe water supplies. It also assists villages in digging new wells to service their communities.
Currently, AAII is negotiating an agreement with Freedom From Hunger, an innovative technical assistance group that will
support the design and implementation of a micro-lending concept for women called Credit With Education. This relationship
will result first in a regional pilot program and ultimately a national rollout. The unique aspect of this concept is that
it integrates credit/lending activities with education. AAII has elected to include health issues as well as business principles.
Contingent upon the success of the national program, AAII will move to expand the scope of the program internationally.
CONCLUSIONAs reflected in this brief
overview, AAII makes extraordinary contributions to global health. Effective leadership? Yes! Innovative programs? Yes! Effective
organizational capacity? Yes! But more importantly The African American Islamic Institute has provided a new paradigm for
the twenty-first century in caring, dedication, selflessness and commitment to service. It is an honor to nominate this organization
for the 2001 Bill Gates Award For Global Health and if selected, AAII will apply this award to the further development of
its organizational capacity, enhancing its efficiency and effectiveness in meeting the needs of its programs.