On This Day

The Day a Life-Saving Nurse Was Recognized for Her Courage

By Wei Yan Aung 29 June 2019

YANGON—Twenty-six years ago today, Nursing Officer Daw M Yaw Nam became Myanmar’s second-ever winner of the Florence Nightingale Medal.

The award is bestowed by the International Committee of the Red Cross upon nurses who show exceptional courage in caring for the sick and injured. The ethnic Kachin nurse took care of over 600 soldiers and other patients wounded in fighting between the Tatmadaw (or Myanmar Army) and the Communist Party of Burma (CPB) between October 1986 and November 1987 in northern Shan State. She also assisted in over 140 surgical operations and donated her own blood when necessary.

After the Tatmadaw took control of Kyugok, Shan State, from the CPB, she was the first—and for many years remained the only—female health worker to serve the injured there. Many an ethnic refugee, including former fighters who exchanged weapons for peace, benefited from her medical care.

She adopted a pair of twins orphaned by the fighting. Moreover, she traveled extensively to remote mountain-top villages—some located at an altitude of over 4,000 feet—to distribute blankets and clothing provided by the Myanmar Red Cross Society.

She was nominated for the Florence Nightingale Medal for risking life and limb in the service of humanitarian work, which she performed with love, kindness and sympathy amid a rain of bullets and shelling.

To date, Myanmar has produced four Florence Nightingale Medal winners. Chief Nurse Major Khin Ohn Mya became the first recipient in 1963 for treating Myanmar troops wounded in World War II. Midwife Daw Thein Yi was presented with the medal in 2001 for rescuing a child from a burning house. Nurse Sa Naing Naing Tun was honored in 2015 for his efforts to help rebuild the devastated Irrawaddy Delta after Cyclone Nargis in 2008.

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