EMERGENCY: Medicine and Human Rights since 1994

Our history, from the first mission to Rwanda to 10 million patients treated.

Milan, 1994: EMERGENCY, a humanitarian organisation founded to help civilian victims of war and poverty, was born.

Since then, we have worked in 18 Countries, building hospitals, surgical centres, rehabilitation centres, paediatric centres, first aid posts, health centres, clinics and mobile clinics, a maternity centre and a cardiac surgery center. At the request of local authorities and other organizations we have also contributed to the restructuring and the equipping of existing health facilities.

Our first project was in Rwanda, where we restored and reopened the Kigali hospital surgery department and redeveloped the obstetrics and gynecology department.

The ban of landmines

And, right from the beginning, we started the campaign that resulted in Italy banning anti-personnel mines. Our doctors, surgeons, and nurses had seen and continued to see the horrors of war and its effects every day: that is why we could not help but engage in the daily advocacy of values of peace, solidarity and respect for human rights .

Meanwhile, our programmes grew, and so did the number of countries we were working in: Iraq, Afghanistan, Cambodia, Serbia, Eritrea…

“A rag of peace”

In 2001, because we knew what war really was, and we knew very clearly what the consequences of an armed intervention in Afghanistan would be, we asked citizens to express their repudiation of war with a “rag of peace”, which becamea symbol of the opposition to war.

[...] A rag of peace. And if there are so many showing it, they won’t be able to say that the whole of Italy has chosen war as a tool for resolving conflicts [...]

From the Appeal "A Rag of Peace", EMERGENCY, 2001

NO to war

In September 2002, we launched the campaign “Italy Out Of War” in opposition to our country’s participation in the war against Iraq.

With the campaign “Let’s End the War, Let’s Sign Peace“, in 2002, we drafted a list of signatures in support for the law “Norms for the implementation of the principle of repudiation of war enshrined in Article 11 of the Constitution and the Statute of the ‘Onu’, filed in the House of Representatives in June 2003.

And in the meantime, we continued our work to provide free and quality care to those who needed it, victims of mines, war, but also of the poverty that results from war, and which often compromises an entire countr, sometimes even years after the end of the conflict. Sierra Leone, Sudan, Algeria, Angola, Palestine, Nicaragua, Sri Lanka … and also Italy. Yes Italy: not even us, back in 1994, would have ever thought we’d need to one day work in the country of our origin.

The “Manifesto for a Human Rights-based Medicine

In 2008, we developed, together with a number of African countries, the “Manifesto for a Human Rights-based Medicine” to advocate for healthcare based on equality, quality and social responsibility.

The "right to be treated" as a fundamental and inalienable right belonging to each member of the human family.

From the "Manifesto for a Human Rights-based Medicine", 2008

These principles were developed into thedefinition of the ANME (African Network of Medical Excellence) in 2010, a project involving 11 countries in the construction of medical centers of excellence with a view to strengthening health systems on the continent.

In 2015 Gino Strada, one of our founders and current EMERGENCY Executive Director, accepted in Stockholm the “Right Livelihood Award”, the “alternative Nobel Prize Award”, created to “honor and support those who offer practical and exemplary responses to the major challenges of our time.”

“For his great humanity and his skill in providing outstanding medical and surgical services to the victims of conflict and injustice, while fearlessly addressing the causes of war”

from the motivations for being awarded the Right Livelihood Award

A few months later, another important acknowledgment: the “Sunhak Peace Prize” awarded every year to individuals and organizations who have distinguished themselves for their important contribution to peace and human development.

Meanwhile, we began internationalizing the structure EMERGENCY that has led to the birth of local organizations and volunteer groups in different Countries.

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