A nurse celebrated for her dedication to helping people outside the bounds of her normal duties walked home with $250,000 on Thursday.
Anna Qabale Duba from Kenya won the Aster Guardians Global Nursing Award after a panel of judges championed her work in helping to protect vulnerable women and children in Africa.
The mother-of-two, 31, who is the only graduate from her village in Kenya, beat off the competition from nine other nurses who were nominated for the prize. The awards ceremony took place in Dubai.
On the shortlist were six women and four men working in seven countries – India, the UAE, the UK, Australia, Afghanistan, Kenya and the US.
“I am happy and proud because growing up in a rural village in Kenya, never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would be celebrating on a global platform like this,” she said.
“I come from a place where illiteracy levels are very high. I am the only graduate in my village and in my family.
"I do not discount boys and men but I focus my efforts on women and children, because in my country we do not get equal opportunities.
“Through my organisation, I have built a unique school in my village that teaches both children and their parents, because for me education is key to a better future.”
More than 24,000 applicants were put forward for the global nursing award and on International Nurses Day Ms Duba became its first recipient, with the prize-giving in Dubai.
She is the founder of the Qabale Duba Foundation in Kenya, which opposes harmful cultural practices against women and children and advocates girls' education.
The centre trains women and children and equips them with skills to enter the working world. While the foundation been open for only five years, she said she hopes it leads to more of her graduates entering the field of nursing.
Ms Duba said: “With the money, I plan to open a boarding school, so more children have access to education as they won’t need to travel for hours to get there.
"I also want to start a maternity shelter.
"In my region, 99 per cent of women still deliver at home due to lack of services, so I want to bridge this gap.”
Award celebrates caregivers
Indian mother-of-two Jasmine Mohammed Sharaf, who lives in the UAE, was also picked from the thousands of international applicants to be in with a chance of winning the Aster Guardians Global Nursing Award.
Although she did not win the top prize, the judges said she went above and beyond the call of duty at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, moving patients to and from hospital in her own car.
Speaking on Thursday, she said she was honoured to be nominated and would continue to put others before her.
Among the other nominees was Afghan nurse Wais Mohammad Qarani.
Overcoming the cultural barriers that pervade the nursing profession in Afghanistan, Mr Qarani has been working in the medical field for more than two decades.
On August 15 last year, when the Afghan government collapsed leading to immediate conflict, Mr Qarani decided to stay behind at the hospital to help patients and staff, while many other fled for safety.
The hospital remained open throughout the conflict, while many of the country's healthcare facilities closed.
Mr Qarani was the first person to complete a nursing degree in Afghanistan. He was unable to travel to Dubai due to the continuing conflict in his home country.
UAE's hero nurse - in pictures
Rachel Joseph, 65, who has been working in the US since 1998, said to be nominated for the honour was a win in itself.
Her friend of 40 years had encouraged her to apply for the award.
“The fact that this competition honours nurses in such high regard is the most important thing to come from today,” she said.
“In my opinion, even though only 10 of us were given the spotlight today, this awareness proves that all nurses are heroes.
“To be a caregiver takes a special kind of soul and today I think all nurses around the world were honoured for their hard work.”
Ms Joseph, originally from India, has worked in Oman and Jordan, as well as the US.
With a keen interest in research, she has had a hand in studies about genetics as well as continuing research into mental health well-being as a result of the fallout from the pandemic.
'More nurses needed globally'
Handing the award to the winner, Dr Azad Moopen, managing director of Aster DM Healthcare, said the award was launched to honour the unsung heroes of health care globally and encourage more people to enter the profession.
“There is a huge lack of nurses in the world as they are underpaid and overworked," Dr Moopen said. "They’re not getting the recognition they deserve.
“Nurses are the heart and soul of the healthcare system and we wanted to recognise them with this award.
“We also want to encourage younger generations to join the nursing profession in the future.”
He called on governments and the private sector to offer more incentives for people to enter nursing, including better pay and accommodation.
During the pandemic, Aster offered monetary support to the families of its nursing staff who died as a result of Covid-19.
The organisation pledged to pay families of the deceased a basic salary for 10 years.
The World Health Organisation says there is a shortage of 6.5 million nursing jobs in the world and this is set to rise to 12.5 million by 2030 if the rate of employment in the profession does not change.