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our history

The beginning: A visit to Ifakara by zoologist Dr. Rudolf Geigy from Switzerland in 1949 marked the beginning of over 50-year history of IHI. Geigy [1920-1995], a scientist from the Swiss Tropical Institute in Basel, sought a fieldwork location for researching on tropical diseases. Eight years later, he opened the Swiss Tropical Institute Field Laboratory (STIFL) there.

The name “Ifakara” refers to “a place you go to die”, a reflection of the historically high burden of disease in the area, before major control efforts started.

Transformation: In the years after the 1961 independence, STIFL played a central role in training medical officers who could serve the country after independence. The government mandated STIFL to play the role through the Rural Aid Centre, which was designed to undertake the assignment.

Tanzania adopted the nationalization policy in the late 1960s and early 1970s which championed transferring of public institutions into the hands of Tanzanians. The policy set the stage for the integration of STIFL into a government agency – National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR) which was achieved some years later in 1990.

The following year, that’s is 1991, STIFL was renamed ‘Ifakara Centre’ and made an affiliate of NIMR. In 1996, it was made a trust and renamed, ‘Ifakara Health Research and Development Centre (IHRDC). This name lasted until 2008 when it was changed to the current one of ‘Ifakara Health Institute.

Flowering era: From the 1990s onward, IHI received an influx of funding and prestigious awards for excellence in health research. In 2008, it received the Prince of Asturias Award – a series of annual prizes awarded in Spain by the Prince of Asturias Foundation to individuals, entities or organizations from around the world who make notable achievements in the fields of sciences, humanities and public affairs. The aim is to encourage and promote scientific, cultural and humanistic values that form part of mankind’s universal heritage. In 2010, IHI received the (Tanzania) National Award for Science and Technology.

New Era: The first Tanzanian science director, Dr. Andrew Kitua, was appointed in 1993. His successors: Dr. Hassan Mshinda and Dr. Salim Abdulla, built strong teams that took the institute to the high level of excellence, extending operations of the institute to other regions.

In 2005, the institute extended its wings by opening a new branch in the Tanzania’s colonial era capital, Bagamoyo.

The Institute’s name was simplified to "Ifakara Health Institute," abbreviated as “IHI” in 2008. The same year, Dar es Salaam Office, where IHI is currently headquartered, was opened.

And three years later, in 2012, the IHI Training Center and the Clinical Trials Facility were built at Kingani area in Bagamoyo.

The sitting Chief Executive Director, Dr. Honorati Masanja, was appointed in 2016.

past directors

Start End Fullname
1975 1977 Gerhard Eichenberger
1978 1981 Adrian Zumstein
1981 1984 Marcel Tanner
1985 1987 Don de Savigny
1987 1988 Christoph Hatz
1988 1989 Calum MacPherson
1990 1994 Thomas Teuscher
1994 1997 Andrew Kitua
1997 2006 Hassan Mshinda
2008 2016 Salim Abdulla



Rudolf Geigy’s (Swiss Tropical Institute) first expedition to Ifakara.


Rudolf Geigy and collaborators are invited to Ifakara by the Swiss Capuchin Mission (Edgar Maranta).


Swiss Tropical Institute Field Laboratory (STIFL) founded in Ifakara.


Rural Aid Centre (RAC), a training-school for “Rural Medical Aids,” opens at Ifakara in then Tanganyika.


Rural Aid Centre transferred into a Medical Assistants Training Centre (MATC).


MATC handed over to the Tanzanian government.


STIFL renamed "Ifakara Centre" and becomes an affiliate of the National Institute for Medical Research, NIMR.


First Tanzanian Scientific Director, Dr. Andrew Kitua, appointed.


Registered as an independent entity (Trust) under the name "Ifakara Health Research and Development Centre, IHRDC".


Dr. Hassan Mshinda appointed as Director (1997-2008).


Bagamoyo branch, where the institute’s main lab facilities are located, opens.


Dr Salim Abdulla appointed Chief Executive Director (2008 – 2016). Name simplified to "Ifakara Health Institute," abbreviated as “IHI”. Dar Office, where IHI is currently headquartered, opens.


The IHI Training Center and the Clinical Trials Facility are built at Kingani area in Bagamoyo.


Dr. Honorati Masanja appointed as Chief Executive Director