“The Order of Malta and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) work closely to aid victims of humanitarian emergencies,” said the Order’s Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva. Addressing the annual IOM Council meeting last month, Ambassador Marie-Therese Pictet-Althann described where the Order of Malta and IOM have been of mutual assistance in regions of conflict or catastrophe, taking three regions as examples of on the ground action.
“Our people are providing emergency relief for displaced populations in the Middle East. We have projects for Syrian refugees in Turkey, and we are engaged in giving medical assistance, food relief and emergency schooling. As the number of refugees and displaced continues to rise in Iraq, Malteser International, the Order of Malta’s worldwide relief agency, has been securing medical care for 10,000 displaced people in the north. It is now expanding its outreach, sending mobile teams out to neglected areas, where refugees have little shelter and little care.”
Ambassador Pictet also spoke of the Order of Malta’s action in the Central African Republic, where increased support with medical equipment and supplies for local hospitals and clinics reflects ongoing needs in the region. For example, in South Sudan – where Malteser International has been supporting the health care system since 2008 – care includes distribution of immediate food aid to thousands of homeless and assistance to refugees fleeing in neighbouring Uganda.
The crisis of the boat people in Lampedusa is another cause for great concern and continued action. The UNHCR’s latest figures indicate a peak in arrivals – 207,000 in 2014. But 3,500 drowned crossing the Mediterranean. The Ambassador outlined the Order of Malta’s efforts in the rescue operations of the migrants crossing the Strait of Sicily: “The humanitarian emergency on the island of Lampedusa is among the most important permanent rescue activities carried out in recent years by the Order of Malta’s Italian Relief Corps. Since 2008 it has provided 348 doctors, 311 nurses and 195 volunteer rescuers. They go on board the Italian Finance Police and Coastguard’s vessels and provide immediate healthcare at sea to these terrified and destitute immigrants,” she said.
In his reply, the Director General of IOM, Ambassador William Lacy Swing, thanked the Order of Malta for its efficient response to disasters and acknowledged its important role in crises. “We greatly appreciate your role in the field of migration,” he said.
A brief video clip filmed by Pax Press Agency on the statement made by the Sovereign Order of Malta’s head of Mission in Geneva can be viewed via the following link:
Photo 1 © Kerem Yucel/ Malteser International