In celebration of EMERGENCY turning 20 years old, President Cecilia Strada sent this inspirational and touching letter to EMERGENCY supporters all over the world.
EMERGENCY is celebrating its 20th birthday. If these 20 years were a box, it’d be full of recollections of the 16 countries where we’ve given our help. Inside, there’d be a spear tip. It comes from Rwanda: 1994, EMERGENCY’s first intervention. We entered the abandoned hospital of Kigali, re-opening the obstetrics department where 2,500 women received treatment and gave birth to their babies, and the emergency surgery department where we treated 600 war casualties. We found the spear tip when we first went into the abandoned hospital. It was lying near a patient who’d been killed in his bed. That’s war. Then we saw it in many other countries too: different weapons and different skin colours but the civilian victims are always, tragically, the same. It would have to be a very big box to contain the thousands of drawings that our younger patients have done, maybe spread out on the floor of the hospitals’ play rooms, or maybe out in the garden on the day of their discharge, to leave us a present before returning home.
It would be a box full of the immaculate uniforms of our personnel – their symbol of work, training, and social redemption. Together with our international staff, more than 2,200 local people are now working in EMERGENCY’s healthcare facilities in six countries. A special place in the box would go to the photos of our female colleagues: that’s something else we’re proud of. We’re able to train them and let them work alongside the men, even in situations that are particularly hard for women. The pride and determination with which these women enter the hospital every day is one of our major successes in these past 20 years.
The box would also hold a sandstorm from the Sudan desert, where the Salam Centre for cardiac surgery mends the hearts of children and adults who would otherwise have no chance. There’d be the Cambodian jungle, where we’ve treated too many landmine injuries. There’d be the oranges that grow in our outpatient clinic in Palermo, the Sierra Leone sun that beats down on the Surgery and Paediatric Centre, the metres of snow that our midwives and nurses struggle through, on mountains with no roads, to provide care for the pregnant women and newborn babies who live there.
If these 20 years were a box, there’d undoubtedly be a T-shirt with the red logo: one for all the EMERGENCY T-shirts that have been worn, given, bought and sold. Those T-shirts represent a definite way of helping to treat people, but also a walking idea: the idea that human rights should simply be guaranteed for everyone. What will we put in the box in the next 20 years? We’ll keep on filling it, together, with medicines and rights.
Thank you. For these past 20 years, and for the ones that we’re going to build.”
What did 20 years of EMERGENCY mean to you? Let us know in the comments below.