Humanitarian Gino Strada, who treated victims of war, dies at 73

News 13.08.2021

Italian surgeon and humanitarian Gino Strada, who treated people in conflict zones and campaigned tirelessly against war and violence, has passed away. He received the Right Livelihood Award in 2015 jointly with his organisation EMERGENCY for their work providing medical services to victims of war. He died unexpectedly on Friday, August 13, at the age of 73.

“Gino Strada was a fearless humanitarian who dedicated his life to serving people in crisis. He brought hope to places devastated by conflict and to people experiencing some of their darkest hours. Beyond treating victims of war, he also worked to end wars altogether. His death comes as a shock to the Right Livelihood community. We are extremely saddened. We send our deepest condolences to his loved ones and colleagues at EMERGENCY,” said Ole von Uexkull, Executive Director of Right Livelihood.

Strada was born in 1948 and graduated as a specialist surgeon from the University of Milan. After working in hospitals in Italy, South Africa and the US, Strada left a lucrative career in medicine to serve as a war surgeon with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) from 1989 to 1994 in eight countries, including Bosnia-Herzegovina, Pakistan and Somalia. 

In 1994, he and his wife Teresa founded the non-governmental organisation EMERGENCY to provide high quality, free-of-charge medical and surgical assistance to victims of war, those injured by landmines and hit by poverty. While Gino Strada spent most of his time abroad performing surgery at EMERGENCY facilities, Teresa managed EMERGENCY’s administration and developed the organisation’s support base in Italy, where it now has more than 4,000 volunteers. Teresa passed away in 2009.

EMERGENCY sees healthcare as a fundamental and inalienable human right. All EMERGENCY programmes, though different, are planned and managed following the same standards and values. In all EMERGENCY centres, free-of-charge and high-quality healthcare treatment are guaranteed to anyone in need, without any discrimination. EMERGENCY’s experienced international staff provide national staff with in-depth on-the-job training to hand over health facilities to local health authorities as soon as sustainability is achieved.

EMERGENCY has provided medical and surgical assistance to over 11 million people and has worked in 19 countries, building hospitals, surgical centres, rehabilitation centres, paediatric clinics, first aid posts, health care centres, maternity centres and a Centre for Cardiac Surgery. Areas of intervention and admission criteria are defined by EMERGENCY in agreement with communities and local authorities, based on recognised needs and in the absence of similar interventions.

Having experienced first-hand the civilian casualties and human misery brought by landmines, Strada and EMERGENCY have also campaigned forcefully against the root causes of war and human suffering. They succeeded in ensuring that Italy banned the production and use of antipersonnel landmines in 1997. This was not an easy task, given that Italy was one of the major producers of landmines. Following this, EMERGENCY has campaigned against Italian involvement in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. 

Strada took an unwavering moral and political position against the wars, notably refusing funding from the Italian Foreign Ministry for EMERGENCY’s work in Afghanistan on the grounds that it would be immoral to take funds from a government that was involved in the war to provide healthcare to the victims of that same war.

Strada received the 2015 Right Livelihood Award “​​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.”

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