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2016

Mosul: trapped between the front lines without food or water

The Order of Malta’s worldwide relief agency, is providing aid to the IDPs


Iraq: IDPs arrive in Makhmour in search of safety
Iraq: IPDs arrive in Makhmour, Kurdish territory, seeking safety

Thousands of internally displaced people (IDPs) are fleeing to safety from fighting near Mosul. On 26th March, around 2000 people arrived in the village of Makhmour, in Kurdish territory, after days trapped between the front lines without food or water. Malteser International, the Order of Malta’s worldwide relief agency, is providing aid. “The humanitarian situation here is catastrophic,” says Lisa Hilleke, Malteser International’s Liaison Officer in Erbil. “For security reasons, all the displaced are being kept in a single building with just 19 latrines. People are sleeping on top of each other. It is a potential breeding ground for diseases.” Humanitarian planners fear this wave of IPDs could be the first of many.

IDPs in a highly vulnerable condition
After living under ISIS rule for eighteen months, many IDPs are already in a highly vulnerable condition. Poor hygiene, a contaminated water supply, a lack of medication and vaccinations, and severe limitations on the availability of medical treatment in the ISIS-occupied zone have left them urgently in need of proper facilities and medical attention. Malteser International has provided two truckloads of hygiene materials to help improve conditions and reduce risk of illness. A coordination with local aid organisations and UN bodies, has provided a weekly mobile clinic run by Malteser International in cooperation with local partner organisation TCCF. “But a permanent solution is urgently needed,” Hilleke stresses.

Medical services are top priority
Preparations are in hand in response to the fear that the IDPs who arrived in Makhmour last week are just the first of many thousands more. “We are monitoring developments in close contact with our local and international partners, and preparing ourselves to provide further aid,” says Hilleke. “Medical services are our top priority.”

Malteser International has been working in Iraq since 2004, undertaking a range of projects in the Kurdish Autonomous Region in the north. Since August 2014, the focus has been on providing medical services and emergency aid to IDPs and refugees.

Iraq: IDPs arrive in Makhmour in search of safety
Malteser International is urgently calling for donations to help the affected people: www.malteser-international.org 

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Young English group on pilgrimage to Rome: the Easter message of hope

British Order of Malta Volunteers at Santa Maria Maggiore

Cardinal Burke addresses the OMV pilgrims, Santa Maria Maggiore
Cardinal Burke addresses the OMV pilgrims, Santa Maria Maggiore

Twenty six young people from the Order of Malta Volunteers (OMV) – eight guests and 16 volunteers – are on Easter pilgrimage to Rome. For most of them, it’s a first – a first time in Rome, a first Mass in Santa Maria Maggiore, one of Rome’s four splendid basilicas where the Order’s Cardinal Patronus, Cardinal Raymond Burke celebrated a special Mass for the group, a first visit to the Order of Malta medical post in St Peter’s Square, a first meeting with the Order’s Grand Master, Fra’ Matthew Festing. The Order of Malta’s Cardinal Patronus, Cardinal Raymond Burke, celebrated Mass specially for the group in Santa Maria Maggiore.

‘Actually, I think I’m the oldest of this young group,’ jokes Robert Adamson, a retired civil servant, as he deftly negotiates the church steps in his wheel chair. ‘They are such fun to be with, friendly and caring.’ He describes his first visit with the OMV to Lourdes, how much he enjoyed it, and why he keeps coming back. ‘It was the attitude that was so good. My first visit was in 1986 and I’ve been almost every year since. That means that some of the volunteers are now the children of those who looked after me all those years ago. Lourdes is inspiring – and even the food has improved!’ 
Robert Adamson, Santa Maria Maggiore
Robert Adamson, Santa Maria Maggiore

Uniting the young
27-year-old Anna Zaloga has been with the OMV since 2011. She first heard about the group at school and has been with them to Lourdes, to Walsingham and to the international summer camps the Order runs every year in different European locations. ‘The OMV has helped me a lot,’ she says. ‘It feels like a family and I’ve met a lot of wonderful people.’ Helper Tom O’Neill agrees. ‘You build friendships, with our guests and the other volunteers,’ he says. ‘It brings out the best in people.’ Francesca Montgomery, who has been a volunteer for over six years, finds that the group unites young people in Britain.

Cardinal Burke, in his homily for the young group and their guests, declared: ‘Helpers and friends, God looks for our love, especially in our daily works, to do what is right and good. In Christ we find the strength for our suffering. Easter is a message of hope, that we share in a particular way the suffering of Christ and how to be redeemed.’

Fra’ Matthew Festing welcomed the young people, noting the importance of their actions in helping each other and those less fortunate than themselves, and their contribution to the life and work of the Order of Malta, whose mission is always that: to care for those in need, inspired by Christian traditions of charity.The pilgrimage, organised with great efficiency by Ruth Stanley, ably helped by Jack Straker, is now in its fifth year. 

To know more about the Order of Malta Volunteers in the UK: www.omv.org.uk   
Grand Master greets OMV pilgrims, Santa Maria Maggiore
Grand Master greets OMV pilgrims, Santa Maria Maggiore


 




















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Letter of condolence from the Grand Master to Philip, King of the Belgians


The Belgian flag flies at half mast
The Belgian flag flies at half mast

In his letter of condolence to King Philip of Belgium, the Grand Master of the Sovereign Order of Malta Fra’Matthew Festing has expressed his profound sorrow and deepest sympathy for the events in Brussels which have caused many deaths and injuries. 

‘In this time of great darkness and drama, in the name of the Government of the Sovereign Order of Malta, I want to express my profound sympathy to the whole of the nation of Belgium. The attacks of yesterday are an attack on our shared principles of freedom and peace,’ he said, emphasising that the Order of Malta is opposed to every form of violence. 'We are truly shocked at the massacre of innocent people once again, which, after Paris, Istanbul and Ankara, strikes at the heart of Europe.’ 

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How the Order of Malta rose from near extinction to the worldwide humanitarian organisation of today

H.J.A.Sire’s just published study of its recent past explains

H.J.A.Sire’s latest book* gives a lively account of the two recent centuries of the Order of Malta, for the first time documented in English. His study starts with Napoleon’s arrival in Malta in 1798, which marks the end of the Order’s splendour and military glory and the knights’ expulsion from the island. It traces the next two centuries, through good and bad times: the Order’s resurgence in the nineteenth century due to the sense of duty and religious attachment of the Catholic aristocracy, to the opening of ranks in the twentieth to wider groups and its modern role as an international humanitarian organisation, now present in 120 countries, caring for those in great need. 
Piers Paul Read and Henry Sire
Piers Paul Read and Henry Sire

At the book’s launch last night in London, the distinguished historian and biographer Piers Paul Read introduced the work to the assembled guests and members of the Order: ‘Reading this superb book, which describes in detail the Order’s modern resurrection like a Phoenix from the Ashes, I would suggest that the Order is so particular, so counter-cultural, so unique, that it could never have been invented. The combination of a meticulous respect for its traditions is combined with a heroic plunge by some of the most distinguished members of the European nobility into the stink and squalor of the poor and the sick. Charitable work was the Order’s original charism: it is its charism today.’ 
The Knights of Malta: a Modern Resurrection
The Knights of Malta: a Modern Resurrection

*The Knights of Malta: a Modern Resurrection is available from the publisher and through Amazon.
Hardcover: 352 pages.
 Publisher: Third Millennium (25 Feb. 2016)
Language: English ISBN-10: 1908990678. ISBN-13: 978-1908990679 

The author signs for Lord Lingfield
The author signs for Lord Lingfield

Event Photos: Stephanie Kalber

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What happens at sea when you are cold, tired, have no water or food and cannot swim

‘Migrant’ boats in the Mediterranean: Order of Malta eye witnesses describe the desperate conditions

Mauro Casignini, Director of the Order of Malta's Italian Emergency Corps, addresses the Press Conference on Migration, Rome, 12 February
Mauro Casignini, Director, Order of Malta's Italian Emergency Corps, addresses Migration Press Conference 

‘We think of the sea as beautiful. But now so often it is an instrument of death,’ the director of the Order of Malta’s Italian Emergency Service* (CISOM), Mauro Casignini, told a press conference in Rome today. ‘What we know is that traffickers are waiting on the Libyan coasts. Desperate migrants give them a slip of paper. It says they’ve paid their passage to Lampedusa. That’s where the trafficker’s deal ends. He doesn’t care what happens next.’ 

What happens next is that boats are loaded – often overloaded - with migrants. In the bottom of the boats, in the middle, are stored petrol containers. The journey is overnight. Ringed around the containers are the women and children. The men sit on the outside. As the voyage progresses, those nearest the containers ingest the petrol fumes. The results can be serious skin burns, the vapours can cause asphyxiation. The effects are worse for children and can be fatal. In addition, the migrants arrive at the boats wearing light clothing. They do not know that the sea at night is very cold. They have no food and no water. They cannot swim. Those who survive the 180 k from Libya to Italian waters may be shipwrecked.
Nurse Jean de dieu Bihizi describes the hazards of the sea journey
Nurse Jean de dieu Bihizi describes the hazards of the sea journey
For the rescuers, it’s a race against time
The sea can change its mood in minutes, the boats can founder on unseen rocks. It takes only five minutes for a craft to sink. Those thrown clear into the freezing waters may or may not have life jackets. ‘We have about seven minutes to rescue them,’ says Dr Giada Bellanca, one of CISOM’s 2800 medical volunteers. ‘It’s easier if they don’t have lifejackets as those are mostly not real ones and they hinder us when trying to pull survivors from the water.’ Nurse Jean de dieu Bihizi adds: ‘Often these people haven’t eaten for days. They are not strong enough to undertake such a journey. Many suffer from hypothermia. Many die. This week, two small children we treated had temperatures at 30 degrees. No signs of life. We put them in warm water and gradually they recovered. It is always a race against time.’



Resuce in the Aegean - a child is saved off the coast of Lesbos
Resuce in the Aegean - a child is saved off the coast of Lesbos

Aid extended to the Aegean

CISOM has extended its aid to the Aegean Sea, (Aegean SAR Operation), working on board a Migrant Offshore Aid Station** (MOAS) ship, in close cooperation with the Greek Coastguards and local authorities. This is a shorter distance but no safer than the Strait of Sicily. The teams on board the Responder vessel – equipped for rescue at sea – have been operative since Christmas Eve. Last Monday morning they saved the lives of 59 migrants, including 6 children, off the coast of the island of Lesbos. 

* Since 2008, the Order of Malta’s Italian Relief Corps has been providing medical aid on board the Italian Coastguard and Customs Officers vessels and, since the Mare Nostrum mission with the Italian Navy, guaranteeing prompt and effective interventions in the Strait of Sicily. During these seven years, its doctors and nurses have developed specific skills for providing aid at sea, even in extreme weather conditions. The Order of Malta’s teams have assisted over 40,000 refugees and migrants.

**The Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) is a humanitarian organisation specialised in search and rescue at sea for refugees and migrants, started by entrepreneurs Christopher and Regina Catrambone. Since its first operation in 2014, MOAS has rescued 11,685 people in the central Mediterranean. The organisation has operated on board the Phoenix, a 40-metre boat equipped with two rubber dinghies, two Schiebel camcopter drones and a team of professional rescuers, doctors and paramedics. Since December 2015, MOAS has been operating in the Aegean Sea on board the Responder, a second ship, 51-meters, with two high-speed rescue vessels on board. 

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Emergency aid for Syrians fleeing Aleppo

The Order of Malta’s worldwide emergency service, distributes tents, blankets, supplies

Syrian refugees flee Aleppo
Syrian refugees flee Aleppo
As tens of thousands of refugees flee Aleppo along the highway to Turkey, advancing Syrian government forces jeopardise delivery of humanitarian aid. Malteser International, worldwide emergency agency of the Order of Malta, has been providing tents, blankets and supplies, with a Syrian partner operating medical facilities in the region. The staff risk their lives every day. 

Conditions in the areas under siege are very poor indeed and increases in international funding are desperately needed. Aid organisations need unhindered access to the region. However, “Humanitarian aid cannot be a substitute for decisive political action,” stated Malteser International’s number two, Sid Peruvemba, at the weekend. “The suspension of peace talks in Geneva means that the chance of a political solution to the conflict remains extremely small.” 
Syrian refugees on the highway from Aleppo to the Turkish border
Syrian refugees on the highway from Aleppo to the Turkish border
Malteser International has been providing aid to people affected by the Syrian crisis since 2012. Malteser International provided medical treatment to almost 75,000 people in Syria during 2015 – operating a field hospital, a children’s’ hospital and two basic health units in the country through a local partner organization. Malteser International also works with Syrian refugees in Turkey, Lebanon and northern Iraq. 


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Grand Master’s call for action to reinforce humanitarian principles in face of refugee crisis

In annual address to the Order’s diplomatic corps, emphasises need to work together, creation of a common policy

Grand Master Fra' Matthew Festing addresses the Diplomatic Corps, January 2016
Grand Master Fra' Matthew Festing addresses the Diplomatic Corps, January 2016

Grand Master Fra’Matthew Festing has called for the nations of Europe to work together to manage the current refugee crisis and put a common policy and faster administrative procedures in place. He emphasised the need to reinforce the humanitarian principles stated in the post war Geneva Conventions.

In his annual address to the diplomats accredited to the Sovereign Order of Malta, the Grand Master affirmed the core values of protecting lives, upholding human dignity and promoting tolerance.

For the full text of his speech, click here

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