The origin of the Ethiopian Public Health Institute (EPHI) traces back to 1922 when Dr. Thomas Lambie, an American missionary, established a volunteer medical service hospital at the current site of EPHI. Foundation stone for the construction of the hospital building was laid in 1922. Th. Dr. Lambie started the service in 2024 with four doctors and six nurses who accompanied him as missionaries. This medical service continued until the Italian invasion in 1935.

When the Italian government invaded Ethiopia, the foreigners working in the country at the time were forced to leave and were provided compensation. As a result, Dr. Thomas Lambie and his colleagues returned to their home country, America. The medical services previously provided at the site were also discontinued. Instead, the site was utilized by the Italian administration for Addis Ababa’s sanitary control services.

The Italian government tried to improve the services provided at the Lambe Hospital by adding more  Ethiopians who were working at the hospital at the time and its own experts. The institution then renamed as Ministro Dela Sanita was moved to Arat Kilo area where the Ethiopian Public Servants’ Social Security Agency’s Head Office is currently located. After the liberation of the country in May 1941, the government of Ethiopia took over the Ministro Dela Sanita and renamed it as Imperial Medical Research Institute. In the same year (1941), the new Imperial Medical Research Institute was again relocated to the former Princess Zenebework H/Selassie School in Kazanchis and then to “Casa Populare” around the present Mexico Square in 1943 where it was stationed for the next seven years at the current location of the Headquarters of the Ethiopian Road Authority.When Italy was defeated and left Ethiopia, institutions that had been providing various services by foreign experts before the Italian invasion were transferred to the property of the Palace. As a result, the former Lambe Hospital was renamed Teferi Mekonon Hospital and was used as a treatment facility for the Royal Family.

In 1948, when the Ministry of Health of Ethiopia was established by decree, the medical services that were provided in the field were transferred and managed under the Ministry of Health.

In 1952, the Ministry of Health entered into an agreement with the French government in which the latter is  to conduct research and study on various diseases and to provide health laboratory testing services under the name “Institute Pasteur d’Ethiopie”.  Then it started its work by establishing various departments. This time the work was led by experts from both governments. The departments established to carry out research were:

  1. Department of Bacteriology, Parasitology and Serology,
  2. Department of Chemical Analysis,
  3. Department of Antibiotic Vaccine Preparation,
  4. Director of Typhoid Vaccine Preparation,
  5. TB BCG Vaccine Development Department,
  6. Rabies Vaccine Preparation Department, and

Among the vaccines that were produced in different quantities at that time included:

  1. Antiviral vaccine
  2. Anti-typhoid,
  3. Rabies vaccine,
  4. TB BCG vaccine,
  5. Typhoid vaccine,
  6. Yellow fever vaccine
  7. Flu vaccine included.

A certain amount of doses of these vaccines were produced every year, and the service was given to the community for free.

This research and study, which started with the Agreement of the French and Ethiopian governments, as well as, production and distribution of various vaccines, were lasted until 1964.

The site, which is now the home of the Ethiopian Public Health Institute, was known as the Dr. Thomas Lambe’s Hospital from 1922 to 1934. It was then renamed the Pasteur Institute from 1952 to 1964  Pasteur Institute is known locally by most people in Addis Ababa as a well-known brand for its contributions to public health in Ethiopia.

In conclusion, this pioneer institute was founded in 1922. as a simple clinical laboratory unit of a hospital (Dr. Thomas Lambie’s hospital), where it has  undergone several evolutions and changes of mandates for over nine decades until it was re-established by the government in 2013 to serve as a National Public Health Institute based on its demonstrated capacity to effectively shoulder core functions of a public health institute.


The Imperial Central Laboratory & Resrearch Institute & National Research Institute of Health (NRIH)

After 1964, when the agreement between the government of Ethiopia and the government of France was terminated, the institute was reestablished as Imperial Central Laboratory and Research Institute (CLRI) in 1965 and the entire management and staff were to be managed by Ethiopians, and the budget was fully covered by the government of Ethiopia. The service that was provided earlier continued under the same name until 1984. However, except for the rabies vaccine, other vaccination services did not continue after the arrival of the Derg government.

Since 1984, as the institute’s work has expanded, it was re-established as the Ethiopian National Research Institute of Health. Dr. Fisseha Haile Meskel, who served as Director from 1976 to 1991 contributed significantly to the Institute’s overall development and the improvement and development of its relations with international institutions. The institute also opened a laboratory technology school during this time and produced many professionals in the field.

Ethiopian Nutrition Institute (ENI)

It was initially established in 1962 as the Children’s Nutrition Department through cooperation between the Ethiopian government and the Swedish government. This department was later restructured in 1968 as the Ethiopian Institute of Nutrition. The Institute was initially housed in the former Prencess Tsehay   Hospital, now the premises of the Armed Forces Hospital. From 1968 to 1973, the Institute undertook various activities to address the problems caused by drought in Ethiopia. It also spearheaded the introduction of supplements known as Dobena Growth. Since 1973, the Institute has operated from its own building, serving as the main Laboratory and Research Institute, focusing primarily on food science and nutrition research. Dr. ZewdieWolde Gabriel, who served as Director for an extended period, played a key role in the Institute’s growth and progress.

The Department of Traditional Medicines was established in 1979 by the Ministry of Health. To further strengthen its functions, the department was upgraded to the Department of Traditional Medicine Research. Since its establishment, the department has conducted research on medicinal herbs, compiling and publishing the national and scientific names of over 600 Ethiopian plants in a modern format. Additionally, it has conducted numerous studies and research on various traditional medicines.

Through time, health research ventures in Ethiopia started to be viewed as an essential component of a better health delivery system for improving the health status and general wellbeing of the population. Thus, there was a need to establish a national research institute through the merger of NRIH, ENI and DTM, which led to the establishment of the Ethiopian Health and Nutrition Research Institute (EHNRI) with mandates stipulated in the proclamation of the Council of Ministers No. 4/1996 as an autonomous public authority having its own legal personality and accountability to the Federal Ministry of Health.

The re-established Ethiopian Health & Nutrition Research  Institute’s mission was to conduct problem-solving research on priority public health issues and provide reliable health information to policy decision-makers. It was also tasked with providing high-quality referral laboratory testing services and manufacturing rabies vaccine products. In the year 2000, the institute revamped its work processes and added new responsibilities, organizing them into three main work processes.

The organization employed these new operational procedures until the year 2013. However, to address legal gaps and enhance international relations, the Institute was re-established in 2013 as the “Ethiopian Public Health Institute.” The new establishment regulation outlined three main duties and responsibilities:

  1. Conducting research on health and nutritional problems based on the national public health research agenda, generating, absorbing, and disseminating scientific and technological knowledge to improve public health.
  2. Collaborating with relevant parties to conduct surveys, identify health risks in advance, and make adequate preparations to prevent potential risks. When health risks occur, the Institute is responsible for issuing alerts, warnings, and current information, providing a prompt and competent response, and assisting the affected society in recovering quickly from the impact.
  3. Strengthening the Institute’s laboratories with trained human resources and advanced technology to conduct problem-solving research, effectively respond to public health risks, perform referral diagnostic and analytical tests, build the capacity of health and food science laboratories at the national level, and ensure the provision of quality services.

In conclusion, the Ethiopian Public Health Institute (EPHI) continues to leave its footprint in the development of the country’s health system with a  new regulation issued by the Council of Ministers renewed as Proclamation No. 529/2023, performing with the following objectives:

  1. Lead, conduct, and coordinate the prevention and control of public health emergency activities.
  2. Build the capacity of health laboratories, provide referral laboratory testing services for public health emergency management, and health care service, and undertake reference testing.
  3. Undertake priority Public Health and nutrition problems, programs, and strategies.
  4. Establish and manage a national health data management and analytics center by gathering health and health-related data from various sources.