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’, the 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.
Not only fighting, attacks or bombing that creates victims. Entire Countries are still covered with anti-personnel mines ready to explode. A car that drives into the wrong path, a child gathering what looks like a plastic toy from the ground, an errant dig while working in a field: just a little to trigger the mechanism and change a life in a 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 of the possibility of helping suffering human beings, the idea of giving life to 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. The idea of EMERGENCY was born on operating tables and in wards.
So we began to treat the victims of the genocide in Rwanda in 1994. And we have continued to do so by sending specialized teams around the world or building surgical centres dedicated to the victims of war in Afghanistan, Iraq, Cambodia, Sierra Leone, Libya, Central African Republic.
Because treating the wounded is not generous nor charitable, it is only just.