The official visit of Grand Master Fra’ Giacomo Dalla Torre in the Republic of Benin, initiated on 22 January, continues with a busy schedule of meetings. Yesterday a meeting was held with the President of the Republic, Patrice Talon, when many topics of mutual interest were discussed. The President of the African State, with which the Order has enjoyed diplomatic relations since 1972, praised the Order of Malta’s commitment in his country, stressing the quality of the services provided in the hospital in Djougou, run by Ordre de Malte France since 1974, which he described as “an authentic centre of excellence”.
During the meeting, also attended by the Benin Health Minister, Benjamin Hounkpatin, President Talon illustrated the government’s health reform programme that aims to improve the quality of healthcare and medical staff training. One of the objectives is to encourage doctors and nurses to remain in the country and continue working in the public sector. On his part, the Grand Master confirmed the Order of Malta’s full availability to cooperate in the reform process, guaranteeing that the Djougou hospital will remain a symbol of “treatment, hospitality and compassion”.
Also on the table were local political issues and relations with bordering countries. The Grand Master and the President of Benin agreed that political and social programmes should all emphasize the dignity of each individual. “In Benin, the Sovereign Order of Malta finds a spiritual profundity, a richness in diversity and a focus on dialogue in the service of peace,” the Grand Master asserted.
The Grand Master also met the Apostolic Nuncio Brian Udaigwe yesterday, while today a visit is planned to the Order of Malta’s hospital in Djougou with its 200 doctors and nurses and 140 beds. It is the only hospital in the region to have surgery rooms, and is also specialised in paediatrics and in women and children’s health. In 1997, the Djougou hospital opened the “Maison Marigot” department for mothers and babies to prevent infant mortality, reduce malnutrition and improve eating habits. The Order of Malta also provides ten mobile clinics in various areas of the country and three dispensaries.
The Order of Malta’s embassy in Benin supports the country’s health service, and in particular organizes imports of medicines and medical equipment.