On 11 and 12 October, Grand Master Fra’ Matthew Festing went to Lampedusa to meet the doctors and nurses of the Order of Malta’s Italian Emergency Corps working on the coastguard’s patrol vessels.
Over the last six months, the Corps’ volunteer doctors, nurses and helpers have been providing medical assistance on board the Lampedusa coastguards’ ships to over 2,500 immigrants.
Dozens of children, including the newborn, have been assisted as well as numerous pregnant women, in many dramatic cases at serious risk of giving birth on board. The most frequent pathologies were dehydration and malnutrition, chemical burns, sunstroke, injuries from falls and cuts and grazes of varying seriousness. There were almost many cases of scabies.
On Saturday night the Grand Master was at the port of Lampedusa to attend the disembarking of 25 immigrants who, after five days at sea in a rubber dinghy, had been saved in the Strait of Sicily by the coastguards and treated by the Order’s Emergency Corps’ doctors. On Saturday morning the Grand Master, after having boarded the coastguard vessel CP 407 Lolini, visited the Reception Centre on the island, stopping to talk to the immigrants and listen to their personal stories.
On Sunday, the Grand Master attended mass in the Reception Centre together with the immigrants and later on, on board one of the coastguards’ ships, participated in the operations at sea.
Fra’ Matthew Festing, accompanied by a delegation of the Order and by coastguard representatives, expressed his personal thanks to all those who have contributed to the operation, in place for a year on 31 October 2008. On Lampedusa he had talks with the Mayor Bernardino De Rubeis, the Prefect of Agrigento Dr. Umberto Postiglione and local authorities.
The Order of Malta’s Italian Emergency Corps
Founded in 1970, it mainly provides relief and assistance to populations hit by natural disasters. It deploys some 2000 volunteers (doctors, paramedics and helpers) in the three northern, central and southern areas.
In 2007, Fausto Solaro del Borgo, President of the Italian Association, to which the Corps belongs, signed the agreement for integrated social solidarity projects with the Coastguard Commander in Chief, Admiral Luciano Dassatti. The joint activity on Lampedusa was launched on 27 April 2008.