Africare: Late 1980s

“Those of us who have had the privilege to live and work in Africa have, if we are wise, learned that anything worth striving for — whether it is freedom or a self-help clinic — comes only to those who can stay the long, hot course.”

— Bishop John T. Walker
Chairman, Africare
1986

Africare's assistance to the families of Africa more than doubled over the previous five years.

Africare’s assistance to the families of Africa more than doubled over the previous five years.

On Oct. 8, 1987, Africare's headquarters ― Africare House ― was officially opened. Cutting the ribbon were (left to right), Africare President C. Payne Lucas, Africare Chairman Bishop John Walker and President Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia. (Photo: Lisa Berg)

On Oct. 8, 1987, Africare’s headquarters ― Africare House ― was officially opened. Cutting the ribbon were (left to right), Africare President C. Payne Lucas, Africare Chairman Bishop John Walker and President Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia. (Photo: Lisa Berg)

“Africa has reached a crucial threshold in its development,” wrote Bishop John T. Walker, then Africare’s chairman, in 1987. “More and more governments are adopting market-led economic policies in place of failed experimentation with central planning. More and more are seeing virtue, not neocolonial conspiracy, in family planning. And more and more are recognizing the fundamental threat posed by the rapid degradation of the African environment.” That editorial, published in The Washington Post, urged increased U.S. assistance to Africa.

During the late 1980s, Africare’s assistance more than doubled over the previous five years, as the organization maintained faith in Africa’s future and expanded in numerous new directions to help the continent cross the threshold to which Walker referred.

  • From the Central African Republic to Malawi and from Mali to Guinea-Bissau, rural microenterprise development programs rapidly spread.
  • Child spacing became a part of Africare’s larger health programs.
  • Natural resource management, ongoing since the 1970s, continued.
  • Basic water and agricultural assistance sped recovery from the recent drought.
  • Two program models, Child Survival and Food for Development, were launched; both have remained at the center of Africare’s work to the present day.
  • Africare’s first AIDS programs began in 1987, in Nigeria and Rwanda.
  • And during those waning years of apartheid, Africare strengthened assistance to the Southern African “frontline states” — in particular, Angola, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe — where continuous attacks by South Africa-backed insurgents destroyed roads, buildings, farms, development projects and, most tragically, hundreds of thousands of human lives.

In 1987, Africare’s wholly-owned international headquarters building and a Washington, D.C., center on Africa ― Africare House ― opened its doors after a $2 million fund-raising campaign that spanned more than five years. Some 500 supporters turned out for the opening on October 8. In 1983, the dean of the African Diplomatic Corps had provided this endorsement: “We applaud the idea of a center embracing Africa as a whole in the United States, and we as a group urge American[s] to lend Africare House their strongest support.”

More Africare history

Early 1970s: “The task undertaken by Africare is immense”
Late 1970s: “Courage to stand firmly against great odds”
Early 1980s: “We need Africare to spread all over Africa”
Late 1980s: “A crucial threshold”
Early 1990s: “I profoundly believe in Africa”
Late 1990s: “The cusp of a new millennium”
Since 2000: “There are no Africare programs, only African programs” 

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