EMERGENCY: Medicine and Human Rights since 1994

Our history. From our first project in Rwanda to treating over 12 million patients.

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

Since then we have worked in 20 countries, building hospitals, surgical centres, rehabilitation centres, paediatric centres, health centres, outpatient and mobile clinics, a maternity centre and a cardiac surgery centre. At the request of local authorities and other organisations, we have also contributed to the restructuring and strengthening of existing health facilities.

Our first project was in Rwanda, where we restructured and reopened the surgery ward of a hospital in Kigali, as well as redeveloping the obstetrics and gynaecology wards.

Banning landmines

One of the first things we did was launch the campaign that resulted in Italy banning the production of anti-personnel mines. Our doctors, surgeons and nurses had seen – and continue to see – the horrors of war and its effects: that’s why we were compelled to advocate for 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 because 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 became a symbol of the Italian anti-war movement.

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

From the "Rag of Peace" appeal, EMERGENCY, 2001

Saying ‘no’ to war

In September 2002, we launched a campaign against the war against Iraq.

With another campaign, ‘End War, Sign for Peace’,  we drafted a list of signatures in support for the Italian law “Norms for the implementation of the principle of repudiation of war enshrined in Article 11 of the Constitution and the Statute of the UN”, 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 landmines, of war, but also of the poverty that results from war, and which often compromises an entire country, sometimes even years after the end of the conflict. Sierra Leone, Sudan, Algeria, Angola, Palestine, Nicaragua, Sri Lanka, and Italy.

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.

We declare the "right to be treated" as a fundamental and inalienable right of every member of the human family.

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

It was on the basis of these principles that the ANME (African Network of Medical Excellence) was founded in 2010, a project uniting 11 countries in the construction of Centres of Medical Excellence, with a view to strengthening health systems on the continent.

In 2015, Gino Strada, war surgeon and EMERGENCY founder, was presented with the “Right Livelihood Award“, also known as the ‘alternative Nobel Prize’, created to “honour and support those who offer practical and exemplary responses to the major challenges of our time.”

“...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.”

From the motivation behind awarding Gino Strada the Right Livelihood Award

A few months later, we received another important acknowledgment: the ‘Sunhak Peace Prize’, awarded every year to individuals and organisations who have distinguished themselves for their important contribution to peace and human development.

Meanwhile, we began internationalising EMERGENCY’s structure, leading to the creation of local organisations and volunteer groups in different countries.

Help us provide free, high-quality care

Your donation allows us to provide healthcare to those who need it, every day.