By Lerato Ndlovu
Today the world commemorated International Nurses day under the theme for this year is “Nursing the World to Health”.
The 12th of May also marks 200 years since the birth of Florence Nightingale a globally celebrated nursing icon.
During the global pandemic, COVID 19 nurses like other health care workers are at the frontline providing service to those affected.
Thousands of nurses worldwide have contracted COVID 19 while at their workstations.
The International Council of Nurses and the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement jointly commemorated this day stating that nurses account for more than half of all the world’s health workers.
However, there is a shortage of nursing staff worldwide with 5.9 million more nurses still needed, especially in low- and middle-income countries.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) stated that COVID-19 pandemic is a stark reminder of the vital role nurses play while urging nations to provide them with adequate equipment.
“We urge countries to ensure that: the occupational safety and health of nurses and all health workers, including notably, unhindered access to personal protective equipment so they can safely provide care and reduce infections in health care settings.
“Nurses and all health care workers have access to mental health support, timely pay, sick leave and insurance; as well as access to the most up-to-date knowledge and guidance required to respond to all health needs, including outbreaks.
“Nurses are given the financial support and other resources required to help respond to and control COVID-19 and future outbreaks.”
WHO went on to state that this year, it is essential that governments support and invest in their nurses for COVID-19 reinforcing the need for investment in nursing jobs, education, leadership, by developing their nursing workforces, countries can achieve the triple impact of improving health, promoting gender equality and supporting economic growth.
Strengthening the nursing profession will have the additional benefits of promoting gender equity (SDG5), contributing to economic development (SDG8) and supporting other Sustainable Development Goals.
Although many communities have made it a point to thank medical professionals, in other locations, there are worrying reports of harassment and violence against nurses and other health care personnel linked to the COVID-19 response, including in public transportation and at health workers’ own homes.
“Nurses are the world’s life-savers. They are risking their own health and too often sacrificing time with their family to help those suffering from COVID-19,” said Robert Mardini, the director-general of the International Committee of the Red Cross.
“It’s heartening to see many communities praise and thank nurses, but it’s distressing that other nurses face harassment, stigmatization, and even attack.
“The safety of health care workers during this pandemic is crucial for communities to overcome the disease. They not only save people from COVID-19, but they also ensure the continuity of life-saving health services to protect people from accidents and other illnesses,” said Jagan Chapagain, Secretary-General of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
“We are concerned that the pandemic is putting pressure on medical staff and health systems to a breaking point, especially in vulnerable and fragile settings.”
“Stigmatization and violence against nurses and other health workers in some countries are shocking; the only response is zero-tolerance,” said International Council of Nurses President Annette Kennedy.
“The pandemic has seen frontline nurses rightly recognised as heroes, but they are also ordinary mothers and fathers with their own families to protect. They deserve to be able to work free from fear, whether because of a lack of PPE or because of harassment and attack.”
Florence Nightingale was the first person to turn the nursing profession into an org