Preparing for the worst

BMJ 2003; 326 doi: (Published 01 February 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;326:244

In a week when a war between the West and Iraq drew closer, journalist Fabio Turone talked to Gino Strada, a surgeon who is getting ready to help casualties in Baghdad

As President Bush builds his band of 180000 troops in the Middle East, another leader in the Western world is preparing his own team for a trip to Iraq. But this leader, Gino Strada, is a popular icon of pacifism, and his team consists of a surgical and administrative group of fewer than 12.

Strada is the founder of the Italian humanitarian association Emergency, which sets up and runs hospitals for civilian casualties of war across the world. He has worked as a surgeon caring for the war wounded for more than 15 years and is now working in a hospital in Afghanistan.

Speaking at night over a satellite phone from Kabul, he told the BMJ: “Tariq Aziz [Iraq's deputy prime minister] has just authorised Emergency to fly to Baghdad with a surgical and logistics team. We'll be there in a few weeks, with a small international staff of less than a dozen people. We don't need to build anything there. I expect we'll be given a hospital unit to run on our own.”

To try to prevent the conflict in Iraq, Strada recently collected more than 420000 signatures for a petition presented to the Italian government demanding that Italy stay out of the war. So easy did he find it that he has now started collecting the 50000 signatures needed to introduce a law into …

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