Segye Times founder's birthday and Foundation Day commemoration, interview with the co-laureates of the Sunhak Peace Prize - Italian surgeon, Dr. Gino Strada

February 3, 2017

Refugees have gone through so much pain as part of a global village suffering from conflict and war. According to UNHCR's 2015 Global Report, the number of refugees worldwide is estimated at 16.12 million.  As US President Donald Trump issued an executive order on his immigration ban, and more European nations began the following suit closing their borders, refugees found themselves in more difficulties.  But there are people who have been working hard for more than 20 years for refugees with nowhere to go. Italian surgeon Dr. Gino Strada (68), who saved over 8 million people by providing medical care to war victims in conflict areas around the globe, and Afghanistan's female educator Sakena Yacoobi (66), who presented a solution for refugee resettlement through education.  The two winners of the 2017 Sunhak Peace Prize were invited to attend the awards ceremony held at Lotte Hotel World in Seoul, Korea on February 3.  "The refugees should be equally respected," they said in an interview with Segye Times on February 1, "It is urgent that the international community addresses this crisis."


Dr. Gino Strada discusses refugee medical relief in his interview with the Segye Times on February 1 at Lotte Hotel World in Seoul, Korea. By Sang Yoon Ha, Segye Times


Beginning with his post with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in 1989, Dr. Gino Strada has spent the last 28 years dedicated to the world's conflict zones.  He provided urgently needed medical relief for refugees, the poor, and war victims needing treatment, and also led a campaign to ban war altogether.  His humanitarian achievements were so outstanding, he was even nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.  In 1994, the humanitarian medical care organization EMERGENCY was established to provide high-quality free medical services, running over 60 medical facilities in 17 countries, including Afghanistan, Central African Republic, Iraq, and Sudan, and saving the lives of over 8 million people.  In 2007, Dr. Strada established the Salam Centre, a free-of-charge hospital specializing in heart surgery with state-of-the-art facilities in Sudan.

"The right to be treated is the most basic inalienable right we have as human beings," he stressed, "It is only natural that the best medical services are provided to refugees without discrimination."


― What was your reaction to winning the Sunhak Peace Prize?

“I am very honored to receive this award.  Conversely, I was taken by surprise because we did not know that people in Korea knew or were interested in what we do.  I think it is meaningful to award a prize for peace.  I hope it does not just simply end with talks of peace, but that real change can come out of it.”

―The Salam Center for Cardiac Surgery in Sudan is well known for its state-of-the-art facilities that do not lag behind other American or European hospitals.  Is there a reason you insist on providing the best facilities?

“It took us 30 years to finally construct this.  Victims of war are exposed to mines, bomb fragments, firearms, and other injuries.  Pregnant women have difficulty giving birth due to a lack of proper facilities.  In order to cope with these diverse needs, such facilities are needed.  What if someone you know or a family member was sick and needed to go to the hospital. Where would you want to send them?  Of course, you would want to spend top dollar on the best facilities.  I think everyone should get the best treatment equally without discrimination.”


At the 2nd Sunhak Peace Prize Awards Ceremony held at Lotte Hotel World in Seoul, Korea on February 3, Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon is awarding Dr. Gino Strada with a medal and plaque. By Sang Yoon Ha, Segye Times 

―Tell us about your plans for the future.

“After a successful signing of the "Manifesto for a Human Rights-based Medicine" led by EMERGENCY with the governments of Africa in 2008, recognizing the need for high-level medical services, governments have agreed to cooperate towards providing medical care free of charge.  Recently, Dr. Strada has started construction work for a pediatrics center in Uganda. In this way, he aims to build Centres of Medical Excellence across Africa to strengthen national health systems with a regional perspective.  The African continent still lacks good medical facilities with good hygiene.  It is a crime against humanity.” 

―It seems as though the Trump administration (US President) is taking a hostile stance against refugees.  Please share with us your feelings about this.

“I am very surprised. The US was built on immigrants.  It has thrived to where it is now because of its diversity. I do not think the US government's policy banning immigrants is wise. The good news is, there are lots of movements rising to protest and challenge this move.”


―What concept would you recommend for the next Sunhak Peace Prize?

“If it was up to me, I would suggest war abolition. It is strange that even after thousands of years, mankind still fights fiercely to kill each other.  To stop the ravages of war, the world must endeavor to completely make war a thing of the past.”

by Hyejeong Nam, Segye Times