Gino Strada: Italian surgeon and Emergency NGO founder dies aged 73

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Italian surgeon Gino Strada, a human rights activist and founder of an NGO providing life-saving medical care in war-torn regions, has died aged 73.

Strada’s humanitarian organisation Emergency has set up hospitals from Rwanda to Yemen, treating more than 11 million people in 19 countries since it was founded in 1994.

On Friday his daughter, Cecilia Strada, tweeted: “Friends, my dad #GinoStrada is no more.’’ The charity announced: “Our beloved Gino died this morning. He was founder, surgeon, executive director, the soul of Emergency.”

From Milan to Afghanistan

Born in Sesto San Giovanni, a suburb of Milan, on April 21, 1948, Strada earned his medical and surgical degree at Milan State University, specialising in emergency surgery.

He then transferred to the US and worked for four years on heart and lung transplants at the medical centers of Stanford and Pittsburgh Universities. He also trained at Groote Schuur Hospital in Capetown, South Africa.

Starting in 1988, Strada then worked with the International Red Cross in Pakistan, Ethiopia, Thailand, Afghanistan, Peru, Djibouti, Somalia and Bosnia.

In 1994, he established Emergency together with his wife, Teresa Sarti, and friends and colleagues. The organisation sought to provide free, quality healthcare for people injured in conflict.

Emergency’s first mission was in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide. It went on to establish projects in 18 other countries including Sierra Leone, Uganda and Sudan, setting up hospitals that – on Strada’s instruction – had to be either just as good as or better than those in the West.

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It also has a world-renowned surgical centre for conflict victims in Kabul, Afghanistan. Strada was a fierce critic of the US-led invasion of the country and on the day of his death, Italian newspaper La Stampa had published an article by Strada in light of the Taliban’s rapid military takeover.

Of his seven years in the country, Strada wrote, “I saw the number of wounded and the violence increase, while the country became progressively devoured by insecurity and corruption.”

Italian peace march’s sixtieth anniversary dedicated to late surgeon

In a message of condolence on Friday, Italian President Sergio Mattarella said Strada had led his life “in line with our Constitution, which repudiates war.” The surgeon, he said, invoked “humanity where conflict was cancelling out all respect for persons.”

Flavio Lotti, coordinator of the Perugia to Assisi Peace March – an annual 25km walk held by the Italian pacifist movement founded in 1961 – said its sixtieth anniversary event on October 10 would be dedicated to Strada’s memory.

“The March of October 10 is dedicated to the construction of the society of care,” he said, “and Gino Strada was an authentic emblem of care.”

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