'Each country faces the same problem; it is only the degree that differs' - Edinburgh nurse wins international healthcare award

A retired nurse has received global recognition for her decades of service to international health care and education.

Fadwa Affara said she is 'honoured' to be unanimously selected for 2020 Princess Srinagarindra Award
Fadwa Affara said she is 'honoured' to be unanimously selected for 2020 Princess Srinagarindra Award

Fadwa Affara arrived in Edinburgh from the capital of Yemen, Aden aged 11 to begin her education at George Watson's Ladies College.

Ms Affara’s father was Dr Ahmed Affara, a pioneering physician who was the first Arab doctor to work as a missionary for the Church of Scotland in the Arabian Peninsula.

Born in 1943 the Ms Affara grew up in the Church of Scotland’s hospital watching her father work.

Now 76-years-old the ICU nurse, midwife and healthcare consultant said: “Growing up I would see my father with his patients and everything that was going on.”

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After leaving secondary school Ms Affara enrolled at Edinburgh University to study a new course that combined a degree in nursing with the study of humanities including moral philosophy and English literature.

She said: “I knew I didn't want to be a physician, it didn't attract me, but when I heard about this new programme combining nursing with a masters of the arts I decided to try it and I have never regretted it.

“I feel very fulfilled by nursing. It is an extraordinary profession which has allowed me to do much and work with committed and knowledgeable people, it has been very exciting for me.”

Upon completion of her studies in 1968 Ms Affara worked in the former Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, now Quartermile before studying Midwifery in Newcastle.

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From there the adventurous young woman started her first international placement in a hospital in Nazareth where, alongside her nursing duties, she taught nursing for the first time, something she would continue throughout her career.

In a career spanning six decades, Ms Affara has worked in clinical and educational settings to improve health care provision internationally.

The published author has worked as a consultant for the World Health Organization, the International Council of Nurses and many other health-related NGOs in America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

Her work centres around nursing regulation for quality nursing improvement, people’s safety and policy formulation for which she is now considered a world leader in.

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Discussing her many achievements across the globe Ms Affara said: “I have been lucky to go everywhere from Japan and Taiwan to Latin America. And wherever I go I make friends with the nurses so I am not sitting in a hotel, I get to know the place.

“I have been able to make friendships across the world and I saw that each country faces the same problem; it is only the degree that differs. I have seen the solidarity that exists among nurses internationally.”

In recognition of her significant work which has helped advance the nursing field Ms Affara was unanimously selected for the prestigious 2020 Princess Srinagarindra Award.

She said: “It was a great surprise when I opened this letter saying I had received this award. It’s a bonus I didn’t expect. For me, it is something I treasure all the more because it's my peers who have given this to me. It means even more than if it was some big academic institution.”

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While formally retired from her clinical and consulting duties Ms Affara continues her work to improve global healthcare.

During the pandemic, Ms. Affara co-established the Covid-19 Africa Action Network for Nurses and Midwives to promote access to practical guides and training courses and personal protective equipment.

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