Gino Strada, Surgeon and EMERGENCY's Founder

Gino Strada was the founder, surgeon, Executive Director, the soul of EMERGENCY.
Sesto San Giovanni, 21 April 1948 – Honfleur, 13 August 2021

“Patients always come first.”

Gino Strada was born in Sesto San Giovanni, Italy, on 21 April 1948.

He graduated in Medicine and Surgery at the University of Milan and specialised in Emergency Surgery.

To complete his training as a medical surgeon, he spent four years in the United States in the 1980s, where he worked on heart and heart-lung transplant surgery at Stanford and Pittsburgh Universities. He then moved to England and South Africa, where he trained at Harefield Hospital in London and Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town.

In 1988 he decided to apply his experience in emergency surgery to the care of war wounded. In the following years, until 1994, he worked with the International Committee of the Red Cross in Pakistan, Ethiopia, Thailand, Afghanistan, Peru, Djibouti, Somalia and Bosnia.

"What we do, we and others, what we can do with our own strength is perhaps less than a drop in the ocean. But I remain of the opinion that it is better that it is there, that drop, because if it were not there it would be worse for everyone. That is all. It's a tiring job, that of the war surgeon. But it is also, for me, a great honour."

Gino Strada

The Birth of EMERGENCY

In 1994, the experience gained over the years with the Red Cross led Gino Strada, together with his first wife Teresa Sarti and other colleagues and friends, to set up EMERGENCY, an organisation created to provide free, high-quality healthcare to victims of wars, landmines and poverty.

EMERGENCY’s first project, with Gino Strada on the frontline, was during the Rwandan genocide. Its second was in Cambodia, where Strada stayed for several years.

In 1998 he left for Afghanistan. He reached the north of the country by land, where, the following year, EMERGENCY opened its first facility in the country, a Surgical Centre for War Victims in Anabah, Panjshir Valley.

Gino Strada stayed in Afghanistan for seven years, treating thousands of war and landmine victims and contributing to the opening of other projects across the country.

Today, EMERGENCY runs a healthcare network in Afghanistan with three Surgical Centres, a Maternity Centre and a network of 44 First Aid Posts.

In 2005, EMERGENCY began working to open the Salam Centre for Cardiac Surgery in Sudan, the first totally free heart surgery centre in Africa. In 2014, he went to Sierra Leone, where EMERGENCY has been present since 2001, during the Ebola epidemic.

Since founding EMERGENCY in 1994, the organisation has treated over 12 million people.

In Conversation with Gino

Gino sat down with humanitarian photographer Giles Duley, himself a triple-amputee after being injured by an IED while documenting the war in Afghanistan in 2011. Together they discussed EMERGENCY’s projects around the world, through some of the pictures that Giles took while visiting the Salam Centre for Cardiac Surgery in Khartoum, Sudan, and the Kabul Surgical Centre in Afghanistan.

Gino’s book, Green Parrots: A War Surgeon’s Diary, presents a series of sobering and inspiring stories from his experience treating war victims while working with the ICRC and in the early years of EMERGENCY.

Gino spoke with the non-profit organisation Peace One Day about founding EMERGENCY and his work to build peace through healthcare.

In 2006, Gino joined American historian and activist Howard Zinn to discuss their work and the myth of the “just war.”

Awards and Recognition

Gino Strada’s lifelong dedication to helping vulnerable people and promoting healthcare as a human right has been recognised on several occasions.

2017 – Gino received the Sunhak Peace Prize, awarded to those pursuing peace for future generations, for his efforts to provide free, high-quality medical care to refugees and war victims.

2015 – Gino received the Right Livelihood Award, given to change-makers striving for a more just, peaceful and sustainable world, “for his great humanity and skill in providing outstanding medical and surgical services to the victims of conflict and injustice, while fearlessly addressing the causes of war.”

2006 – Gino received an honorary degree of Doctor in Humane Letters from Colorado College in the United States.

"Treating the wounded is neither generous nor merciful, it is only just."

Gino Strada