In 1860, Florence Nightingale laid the foundation of modern nursing with the establishment of a nursing school at St Thomas' Hospital in London. Ever since, nurses and midwives have played a vital, central role in providing health services – not least at Aga Khan hospitals in Asia and Africa. From newborns to the elderly, nurses are often the first and only point of care for those striving to return to good health.
To support the creation of these vital human resources, the Aga Khan University has been educating nurses since 1983 in Pakistan. In 2001, His Highness the Aga Khan opened nursing campuses in East Africa, in order to "professionalise, to institutionalise, and to dignify this great profession". In the same year, upon receiving the Archon Award for nursing and health advocacy, he said "I have long felt the enhancement of the nursing profession to be absolutely critical to the improvement of health care in the developing world, and the Islamic world. The way forward was to professionalise, to institutionalise, and to dignify this great profession."
But 9 million more nurses and midwives are needed if the world is to achieve universal health coverage by 2030, according to the World Health Organization. 2020 is therefore being observed as the Year of the Nurse and the Midwife. The year-long campaign celebrates the work and impact of nurses and midwives, and raises important questions about the role they can play in raising the standard of healthcare for communities around the world.