We offer medical and surgical treatment to victims of war: this is what motivated us to found EMERGENCY.
Who are those injured by war today?
In contemporary wars, 90% of the victims are civilians. They are women, children, and men guilty of having found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. We know who they are: we see them every day in our hospitals.
In the First World War, dead and wounded civilians made up just over ten percent of the total victims. That carnage took place mostly – and perhaps for the last time – on battlefields. In the conflicts that have followed, the enemy has changed its face: villages have become the ‘frontlines’, homes have replaced the trenches. In the Second World War, attempts were no longer made to strike enemy soldiers, instead, cities were targeted: Coventry, Dresden, Hiroshima, Nagasaki… Two out of three victims of global conflict turned out to be civilian. The nature of war had changed, perhaps forever. And the non-combatants, one in every ten at the beginning of the twentieth century, had become nine out of ten by the year 2000. One in every three victims is a child.
It is not only fighting, attacks or bombings that create victims. Entire countries are still covered with anti-personnel mines ready to explode at any moment. A car that drives down the wrong path, a child playing with what looks like a plastic toy on the ground, an errant dig while working in a field: enough to trigger the mechanism and change a life in the fraction of a second. And in the hospital, people come with a rag to stop the blood after their hand has exploded, children who have lost both arms, patients who will remain blind because the mine has exploded in their faces.
From consciousness to action
From this bitter awareness of the ‘disasters of war’ and from the realisation that it was possible to help suffering human beings, the idea of EMERGENCY was born. EMERGENCY’s founding did not derive from a set of principles or statements, but was a necessity and came in response to what we had observed around the world. The idea of EMERGENCY was born on operating tables and in wards.
We began to treat the victims of the genocide in Rwanda in 1994. And we have continued to do so by sending specialised teams around the world and building surgical centres dedicated to victims of war in Afghanistan, Iraq, Cambodia, Sierra Leone, Libya, Central African Republic, and Yemen.
Because treating the wounded is not generous nor charitable. It is just.