‘Who ever would’ve thought I’d be treated by EMERGENCY in Bergamo?!’ said Elio to me last week. He’s a patient in the intensive care ward at the field hospital that we helped build and run in Bergamo, northern Italy.
And thinking about it now, on EMERGENCY’s 26th birthday, I don’t believe any of the people who founded and built up this organisation would ever have imagined our doctors, nurses and technicians ending up working in Lombardy.
Of course we’ve been working in Italy for many years, almost 15 now, but when the coronavirus turned up unannounced in our country, suddenly everything changed. We were getting ready to protect our project in Afghanistan, Sudan, Iraq, and Sierra Leone from COVID-19 when we realised we needed to make even more effort and lend a hand in Europe too.
Quicker than a flash, our headquarters in Milan was transformed into a base from which to run new projects, from support for people stuck at home, to supervision at shelters for people with no home, living on the margins of society. We also ran the intensive care unit at a hospital set up specially for this emergency, much like our one in Freetown, Sierra Leone. There, in 2014, we set up and ran the only intensive care ward for Ebola patients in the whole of West Africa, and for a very simple reason: we wanted to give the people there the same right to free, high-quality treatment that we in the ‘West’ see as fundamental. Thanks to that experience, we can now do our little bit, with skill and passion, back in Europe.
We can’t celebrate this birthday today with the hugs and cheers we’d like to. But perhaps, when you look at it, this epidemic that keeps us apart physically is showing us how to feel closer. We’re realising how essential it is to take care of everyone, without leaving anyone out, and how important each person’s actions are to the whole.
So, my birthday wish for EMERGENCY, for all the people who are part of it and support it however they can, is that they never forget that lesson. We still need everyone’s commitment and hard work to build a fairer, safer and, more united society.” Rossella Miccio, president of EMERGENCY.