Gulamabbas Juma (Zef) Ebrahim

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: (Published 24 July 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e4896
  1. Anthony Costello, professor of International Child Health and director of UCL Institute for Global Health, London WC1N 1EH,
  2. Sundari Ebrahim, retired general practitioner, Farnham
  1. Correspondence to: A Costello cihdcostello{at}

Transformed maternal and paediatric care in Tanzania

By the time he left Tanzania in 1970, Gulamabbas Juma (Zef) Ebrahim had created the first department of paediatrics in the country, at the new medical school in Dar es Salaam. It had innovations ahead of its time: community paediatric services for parts of the country that were accessible only by foot and the training of traditional midwives. The emphasis of Ebrahim’s work in Tanzania was to provide integrated care for mothers and children in rural community settings rather than in secondary care.

Grassroots not ivory towers

In 1966, when he worked from the boot of his car because he had no hospital office and the family’s quarters were cramped, Ebrahim wrote Practical Mother and Child Health in Developing Countries. It became one of the most popular texts for health workers in the developing world. The message was that healthcare should start at the grassroots level in communities—not in ivory towers—and this has spread …

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