Supporting Christian health services in resource-limited settings

DIFAEM - German Institute for Medical Mission

DIFAEM is a Christian Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) offering technical expertise and financial support for health services in resource-limited settings. Its special emphasis is on Primary Health Care and access to good health services even for poor and marginalized communities.

DIFAEM works in partnership with churches, mission and development agencies and other non-government organizations. Its work is based on and motivated by our Christian faith and seeks to address health issues in a holistic manner.

Through its international work, DIFAEM provides support for about 80 health projects mainly in Africa, but also in Asia and to a lesser extent in Latin America. The countries of focus are the Democratic Republic of Congo, Chad, Sudan, Malawi and the Great Lakes Region (Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya), as well as India and Papua New Guinea.

DIFAEM is the governing body of the Tropical Hospital / Paul-Lechler-Hospital in Tübingen. Together with the Southwest German Tumour Centre/ Comprehensiv Cancer Centre Tübingen of the University Hospital in Tübingen, DIFAEM shares the governing responsibility of the "Tübingen Project: Home Care for Seriously Ill Patients". The lobby group "Action against AIDS" provides a platform to work for the right to health.

DIFAEM - What we stand for

Since its inception in 1906, health and healing have been central to the ministry of the German Institute for Medical Mission (DIFAEM). Our vision is:  Promoting health, bringing healing, alleviating pain and suffering even in the case of chronic disease and disability, locally and globally.

DIFAEM’s mission is to: Develop, strengthen and facilitate health services especially for disadvantaged, vulnerable and marginalized people. We  work in a scientifically sound, efficient, effective and as far as possible in a sustainable manner. DIFAEM works in partnership with churches, mission and development agencies and other Non-Government Organizations. Our work is based on and motivated by our Christian faith.

Health and healing have not only a physical but also a spiritual, social, ecological and political dimension. Healthy – in a comprehensive sense - are persons who are at peace with themselves, as well as with their fellow human beings, the creation and with God. Therefore our healing ministry includes professional medical care, but also addresses the social needs of persons and their community as well as the spiritual dimension. This ministry regards all persons irrespective of their background, ethnicity or religion as persons made in the image of God and allows these persons to develop their full potential even within given limitations such as a handicap or chronic disease.

DIFAEM - key activities

Health Services
Strengthening health systems – from the community to the facility level – is central to our ministry. This includes assisting our partner organizations to mobilize communities to use their own assets and building their potentials in taking action for health-related issues. At the same time, we focus on improving health services and quality of care, further qualifying medical personnel, and strengthening organizational development of partner organizations/institutions.

Pharmaceutical Services
Half of the people living in Sub-Saharan countries do not have reliable access to essential medicines. DIFAEM pharmaceutical services focus on capacity building of pharmaceutical services through action as well as through lobbying and advocacy.

Training and capacity building for health service Providers
DIFAEM offers special training courses for health professionals who plan to work for some time in resource-limited settings. These courses take place in Germany with German as the teaching language.

Theological studies
DIFAEM’s health work is based on the understanding that healing is an essential part of the mission of the churches. Therefore, we encourage the churches to recognize their specific contribution and task in the field of health and to implement their healing ministry in various contexts today. Our worldwide engagement aims at promoting and strengthening the health work of Christian churches, communities, organizations and individuals.

Lobby and advocacy activities
In the 1980s, DIFAEM recognized the importance of HIV and AIDS especially in Africa and started supporting HIV related activities. In 2000 it played a crucial role in the development of "Action against AIDS", a national lobby and advocacy network of Christian and other Non-Governmental Organisations with the aim of achieving universal access to HIV prevention, antiretroviral treatment, treatment, care and support.

Strategic goals

We pursue five strategic goals in our work:

1. Primary health care

Together with our local partners, we promote basic health founded on community participation and secure access to both preventive and curative care for everybody.

2. Strengthening health systems

This includes comprehensive health financing, access to medicines and diagnostics, training of professionals, good infrastructure, health data collection and good patient care.

3. Access to good quality and affordable medicines

We achieve this goal by setting up central pharmacies and by promoting local supply systems with good quality medicines.

4. Improvement of clinical care

Our main focus is on women's health, but we also take care of the treatment of chronic diseases, infectious diseases and other areas.

5. Emergency and crisis intervention

We hold about 10 percent of our donations ready to respond appropriately in countries with medical crises. We focus on regions where our partners can implement the necessary aid. Our task is to promote and actively support the work of our partners. The project management monitors and accompanies all projects and ensures the targeted implementation.

Networks and Alliances

How we started

Founded by a German businessman, Dr Paul Lechler, in 1906, DIFAEM supported medical missionwork in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Training medical students, missionary doctors and nurses in tropical medicine was at the centre of DIFAEM’s work in  the early days. At the same time, the Institute provided medical care for those going to and returning from mission hospitals in Africa, Latin America, and Asia.

In 1916, DIFAEM started to operate a small hospital for tropical diseases. The health facility was built on a beautiful mountaintop that provided an ideal surrounding for returning missionaries to recuperate from their service overseas. Today the hospital with about 100 beds serves patients in the area of palliative care, geriatrics and to a much lesser extent, tropical and travel medicine.

Since 1959 DIFAEM has developed its Pharmaceutical Services, initially providing basic supplies for mission hospitals and later developing and strengthening local pharmaceutical services especially in Africa. This led to the development of the Ecumenical Pharmaceutical Network (EPN) that operates today in more than 30 countries with church-based drug supply organizations that provide quality pharmaceutical services especially in the African context.

The Consultations of Tübingen I and II in 1964 and 1967 and the subsequent work of the Christian Medical Commission of the World Council of Churches (WCC) developed basic principles of health and healing ministries that up to this day play an important role in our understanding of health and wholeness. Results of these consultations and the work of the Christian Medical Commission influenced the development of the principles of Primary Health Care in Alma Ata in 1978.

In the 1980s, DIFAEM recognized the importance of HIV and AIDS especially in Africa and started supporting HIV related activities. In 2000 it played a crucial role in the development of “Action against AIDS", a national lobby and advocacy network of Christian and other nongovernmental organizations with the aim to achieving universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support.

Being a voice for the voiceless has always been an important aspect of the work of DIFAEM. Access to essential medicines, especially for the treatment of HIV and AIDS, but also appropriate support for health-related goals through government and other development partners are on the agenda of the lobby and advocacy activities.



Dr. Gisela Schneider
Dr. Gisela Schneider Director of DIFAEM Merrit & Peter Renz Haus Im Rotbad 46, 72076 Tübingen Tel. +49/7071 206-811
Ms. Monika Harter
Ms. Monika Harter Director Assistant Mohlstraße 26 72074 Tübingen Tel. +49/7071 704 90 17

Annual Report