“I wanted to become a nurse to serve my people”

Rosemary Kadi Giryang, a South Sudanese nurse working with the ICRC in Juba, was awarded the Florence Nightingale Medal for 30 years of service to victims of war and violence.

Rosemary is busy.

From dawn to dusk she repeats the same moves, carefully, gently. She looks at her patients with compassion, speaks with a low and kind voice and takes care of them.
She has been a nurse for almost 30 years.

"I started in 1991 in Kapoeta and joined the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Juba Military Hospital in 2013," Rosemary says. "I remember when the ICRC moved here, the ward was full of grass and soil. We had to dig to remove everything and clean the place up."

Rosemary began her career in 1991 and joined the ICRC in 2013. CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / Florian Seriex

Today, the ward is clean and calm, but if it could talk, it would probably remember some of the worst moments of the war and the countless patients it hosted. "In 2016, when the conflict escalated, we were not enough nurses to cover the day and night shifts;" Rosemary says. "I committed myself because there was no one to take care of the patients at night, so I would work day and night."

On July 30, Rosemary received the Florence Nightingale Medal, the highest honour in nursing that is awarded to nurses or nursing aids for exception courage and devotion to victims of conflict or disaster. The medal was given to her by Salva Kiir, the President of South Sudan, in a ceremony in the capital Juba. It is a tribute not only to Rosemary but to the more than 860 South Sudanese staff who are dedicating themselves to serving others.

Rosemary cleans the leg of a patient as two interns watch her explain how to keep a wound clean. CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / Florian Seriex

Back in the ward, Rosemary cleans the leg of a patient as two interns follow her every move, as she explains how to them how to keep a wound clean. "I wanted to become a nurse to serve my people," she says.

It is impossible to quantify the impact that Rosemary has had on lives across South Sudan, a country plagued by violence and war for decades. When asked to estimate how many people she has treated in her career, she answers with a smile, "I don't know—thousands. Only God knows."