Malaika's Story

Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions
Country: All

On the 14th of August 2016, CNN broadcasted a report on Malaika’s story, the head nurse at Aleppo Children’s Hospital in Syria. For the past five years, the country has been embroiled in a bitter and brutal civil war which has involved most of the major military powers of this planet and also seen the destruction of many state institutions including the entire healthcare system. [i]

Malaika’s hospital has been a target and was hit multiple times by air strikes, rockets and small arms fire which have led to injuries and death to both paediatric patients and hospital staff. [i]

Malika recounts many stories where her life or the ones of her patients was in danger. In one instance, she was walking on the street when she was hit by shrapnel following an air strike and had to be rushed to hospital. In another instance, again after an airstrike, the oxygen supply in the neonatal unit had been lost. One of the infants required CPR but it was too late, the babe died in her arms. During that attack three more infants succumbed to debris and dust inhalation. [i]

With no home left and all of her family escaping to Turkey, Malaika, as one of the few health workers left in the city, continues to work and live at the hospital despite the dangers and risks to her own life. She provides care to those who are most vulnerable and those who most need it. [ii]

This is a tragic story, but it is necessary for it to be told as it highlights the dedication and the surrender of one’s safety for the benefit of the other. The breakdown of peace and destruction of the fabric that holds society together is not a disease itself, but has the same results with dire consequences on physical and mental wellbeing of an entire community.

As outlined in the WHO Constitution, health is a human right. And as such, nurses are central piece in restoring people’s health, but also in preventing illness and maximising the potential for healthy living wherever and whenever it is possible. Sir Michael Marmot’s statement summed it up the best when he said “Why treat people and send them back to the conditions that made them sick?” [iii]

Malika’s story tells of a nurse working to preserve health, even in the midst of danger and loss. Whilst this is an extreme example of self-sacrifice, there are nurses all over the world involved on a daily basis who are desperate to improve the health of individuals, families, communities and countries even though at great personal cost, either may it be physical, social, or psychological. This passion in times of adversity is the drive shared at the heart of the nursing community.

This IND, we seek to tell the story of some of these unsung heroes and how they are striving to improve people’s lives through actions that relate to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. This IND seeks to celebrate their story, to inspire us for action by demonstrating how nurses can influence their surroundings and communities to create a healthier world.


[i] Kounang, N. (2016). Aleppo’s angel: A nurse’s devotion to Syria’s children. Retrieved from

[ii] Live Updates Syria. (2016). Twitter: “Malika is the head nurse of the children’s hospital in #Aleppo. She refuses to leave! Braver than most men I know.” Retrieved from

[iii] Marmot, M. (2015). The Health Gap. London: Bloomsbury.

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