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Injured Civilians

© Giles Duley

‘Maestro of humanity’: Italian surgeon Gino Strada the medic, who in 1994 co-founded the humanitarian organisation Emergency to provide free, quality healthcare for those injured in conflict, died on Friday in France, reports said.

A heart and lung transplant surgeon by training, Strada embarked on a mission to help heal those caught up in some of the world’s bloodiest and most intractable conflicts, including in Afghanistan, Iraq and Yemen.

Emergency currently operates in Afghanistan, where it has a world-renowned surgical centre, Eritrea, Iraq, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Yemen and Sudan, as well as Italy.

Strada said “If you think of medicine as a human right, then you cannot have some hospitals that offer sophisticated, very effective, hi-tech medicine, and then go to Africa and think, ‘OK, here’s a couple of vaccinations and a few shots’,” he said. “Do we think that we human beings … are all equal in rights and dignity, or not? We say, ‘Yes, we are.’”

The aim was, he said, to create facilities “that you would be happy to have one of your family members treated in”.

Giles Duley first met Strada in 2010 at Emergency’s Salam centre for cardiac surgery in Khartoum, Sudan, documenting the surgeon’s work. Their relationship led in part to the photographer and activist going to Afghanistan the following year, where Duley was severely injured, losing both legs and an arm. It was also Strada’s influence, Duley said, that led to him setting up his own foundation, Legacy of War.

“He was a man of principle and a man who believed in something,” said Duley. “We sadly live in a world now where few people really are principled. We’re surrounded by politicians who are not principled, and many NGOs lack that leadership.

“There was a man who stood up and said what many of us believe: that the cause of so many problems in this world is war, and militarisation, and the profiting of conflict. And he stood up and said: this is what we have to stop.”

On the last few occasions Duley saw Strada, he said, he had seemed tired. But he was never going to stop. “He dedicated his life to this work,” Duley said.

Gino Strada
Meet Gino Strada, unsung hero to the poorest victims of war

“He was a man that had completely and utterly given himself to this. The last few times I met him it was obvious that that had taken a toll on him but there was no way he would ever retire or stop – this was his life, and he dedicated himself to people injured by conflict and those needing heart surgery around the world.”

Strada had an opinion article in Friday’s edition of the Italian daily La Stampa excoriating the US war in Afghanistan, which he decried as a “failure in every possible way”.

Paying tribute to the staff working in Emergency’s health facilities in the country, he wrote: “I cannot write about Afghanistan without thinking primarily of them and of the Afghans who are suffering right now, true ‘war heroes’.”

click to view the complete set of images in the archive

Other associated works by Giles Duley
Iraq: An Open Wound
Disability & Armed Conflict

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