In coordination with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Albanian organisation of the Order of Malta has been actively involved in supporting refugees from Afghanistan since last August, when – after two decades – the US troops left the country. Up to now 1,300 people, many children and elderly, have reached Albania where the government has granted them temporary protection status, in tune with the initiatives undertaken by the United States.
The first activities were set up in the reception centre in Shengjin near Lezha, where 937 refugees – former collaborators of the US administration – are currently housed (another 230 will arrive in the next few days), including around 150 children. The shelter is financially supported by several institutions, as Ambassador of the Order of Malta to Albania Stefano Palumbo explains: “A network of American grant-making foundations coordinates with Save the Children, Samaritan Purse, American Council and the Albanian Organisation of the Order of Malta. Our first aid organisation is the only Albanian relief organisation participating in this network, making all of us particularly proud of our work under the symbol of the eight-pointed Cross”.
The Albanian Organisation of the Order of Malta provides a nursing service in the outpatient clinic every day from 8 am to 7 pm and an online emergency medical service. “We have been asked specifically for eye consultations, ultrasound for pregnant women, and medical transport service. We also organise sports events and recreational activities for children” says Maranaj Marku, Director of the Albanian Organisation of the Order of Malta.
The second centre in which the Albanian Organisation of the Order of Malta is actively engaged is the reception centre in Kavaja (Durres) that hosts 150 refugees, including 50 children and a pregnant woman who gave birth just a few days ago. The centre is financed by the Open Society Institute, and the Order of Malta supports the medical staff by providing diagnostic material, disinfectants and protective equipment.
In addition, the Order of Malta in Albania is supporting a new reception camp near Pristina in Kosovo where, thanks to the generosity of Malteser Hilfsdienst, it has delivered 2000 masks FFP2 and 500 PCR Covid tests. The camp is home to about 1,000 people, including about 100 children and adolescents. The destinations of these evacuees, however, are not necessarily the United States, unlike the evacuees on Albanian soil, but several European countries. Here too, the Embassy of the Order of Malta in Albania and the Order’s organisation have created a partnership by offering activities for children, as health and nursing care is already well supported by NATO itself.