The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) awards the Florence Nightingale Medal to honour exceptional courage and devotion to the victims of armed conflict or natural disaster.

Auckland nurse Graham Zinsli has worked with Red Cross for two decades, helping in conflict zones and responding to some of the world’s worst natural disasters.

He was deployed to Banda Aceh, Indonesia, following the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami which killed 230,000 people. The following year, he worked in an ICRC field hospital in Pakistan after the devastating Kashmir earthquake.

Graham’s first Red Cross mission was to Afghanistan in 1996, where he worked as a surgical nurse in Kandahar. He returned to Afghanistan in 2001, shortly after the 9/11 events, to work in a hospital in Jalalabad.

Other missions have taken Graham to Ethiopia, Jordan, Sudan, Sri Lanka, Papua New Guinea and Yemen, where he provided health care and medical training.

His work has expanded from surgical duties to include overseeing food, shelter and sanitation programmes. Graham recently worked with refugees in Jordan, where, along with striving to improve everyday conditions in refugee camps, he built playgrounds for children.

New Zealand Red Cross Secretary General Tony Paine says the medal recognises Graham’s exceptional commitment to helping people affected by disaster and conflict.

“During his career, Graham has shown extraordinary courage and bravery many times. He’s a conscientious, humble person, who always completes missions with a high degree of integrity.

“He’s a very deserving recipient of the Florence Nightingale medal. We’re proud to join him to celebrate this honour, acknowledging his enduring dedication to humanitarian efforts.”

Graham is only the 27th New Zealander to be awarded the medal, which also recognises exemplary services and pioneering spirit in the areas of public health and nursing education.

In addition to international work with Red Cross, Graham has worked in Western Samoa and in Cook Islands and Tonga as a teaching nurse. In New Zealand he been an emergency room nurse and has currently returned home to Auckland where he is working at the North Shore Hospital.

Graham was officially presented with the Florence Nightingale Medal at an investiture in Wellington last week.