This article was originally published on www.orderofmalta.int.
The Order of Malta is increasing its worldwide engagement dealing with the Covid 19 pandemic. Many of its socio-medical projects in the 120 country where its Associations relief and volunteer corps operate have been scaled up and/or converted into programmes aimed at preventing and treating Covid patients. Medical and logistic assistance is provided to the national health system of the countries affected, in compliance with governments’ guidelines. New hospital wards for Covid patients have been opened and existing hospitals run by the Order of Malta have been converted into ICU units.
In countries where the basic hygienic conditions are precarious, awareness campaigns have been implemented and WASH (water, sanitation, hygiene) services have been improved. Due to the strict regulations in countries where lockdown is underway, some activities of the Order providing social assistance have been reduced but many more have been strengthened in particular to address the great economic difficulties many people are facing. In many countries, volunteers of the Order of Malta ensure delivery of food and basic items on a regular basis as well as offering regular medical assistance. Many associations, supported by the Order’s embassies, are managing to continue with their routine home visits, ensuring medical assistance is provided to the elderly.
The Order of Malta has also deployed professionals to tackle the psychological effects of imposed quarantine and isolation which is causing emotional distress and psychological disorders, starting from depression.
The diplomatic network of the Order of Malta is also fully engaged in promoting a better knowledge of the virus and its containment measures. The project “Doctor to Doctor”, which was launched in partnership with Forward Thinking, a London based think tanks, has created a network of experts in the field of epidemiology and virology, who meet online medical doctors in Middle East countries to discuss best practices and the latest advancement in medical research. The project is directed in particular to countries whose health infrastructure are unprepared or defective. So far, online meetings have taken place with the health authorities of Palestine and Yemen.
In the following report you will find a summary of the main interventions underway.
Volunteers of the Order of Malta Albania are engaged in the home delivery of medicines, food and hygienic materials to the elderly guests of the Community Centre in Shkoder. The Mountain project, aimed at providing assistance to communities living in remote areas is ongoing with delivery of medicines and special medical assistance.
In Austria extensive support in the setting up and management of the field hospitals in the Vienna Exhibition Centre (4,000 beds) and in the Salzburg Exhibition Centre (700 beds), has been provided. The distribution of food to the poor is continuing in Vienna, in Salzburg and Innsbruck. Many other activities are still running under strict prevention measures such as home nursing and assistance to disabled children.
In Belgium La Fontaine in Liège and Brussels two social centres for homeless people are open but offering limited services: only shower and medical care. Strict prevention measures for both caregivers and guests are implemented. Only people already known or presented by social service are received.
In the Czech Republic activities are concentrating manly on the assistance to the homeless. Volunteers are providing aid in the Czech Inn for the homeless people, a hotel offered by the Municipality of Prague to host some 65 homeless.
At the beginning of the pandemic, Ordre de Malte France set up a crisis centre along with the activation of a continuity plan for the main aid services. Maximal continuity has been given to the aid programmes for the homeless including food delivery, night and day shelters. In Paris food parcels are distributed twice a day to people in need. Volunteers of the Order are also involved in the transportation of covid-19 patients from Paris to province hospitals. The “Soli’Malte” programme has also been launched: a street emergency service to provide needy people, living in thirteen big towns, with four basic services: food, medical care, hygiene kits and psychological support.
Every possible measure to protect health personnel and patients in the ten hospitals run by Ordre de Malte France in Africa have been taken.
The crisis team set up in Germany is coordinating all actions to implement general protocols for both inpatient facilities (hospitals, elderly care facilities, migration facilities, youth welfare facilities, hospices), and outpatient social services (rescue service, outpatient care, home emergency call, meal services). The 11 hospitals run by the Order of Malta in the country are included in the national health system and follow the requirements of the local pandemic plans (e.g. setting up of tents to prepare for patient admission, building up intensive care capacities, cancellation / postponement of elective interventions, restriction of visiting times). New volunteer services have been developed, including shopping services, telephone visiting services, mask sewing, general supply and food delivery services for the needy and the homeless, services for refugees. Mobile medical practices, quarantine facilities, initial screening stations in front of hospitals, test centres performing “drive in” system are also being managed by the Order of Malta. The ambulance service has been expanded for patients relocated in other hospitals. Access to the elderly care facilities has been strictly limited with all prevention measures implemented to avoid infections. The Order of Malta in Germany has distributed 110.000 masks to some of the Order’s relief organizations in Europe.
In Great Britain the ‘Project Brompton’, where every week members and volunteers pack clothing and essentials for distribution to the homeless of London who are now in hostels and hotels, has been running. Tablets have been donated to the Order’s 70 elderly care Homes (in 4 counties) so that residents can stay in touch with family members. A hotline for those who need advice, information or support has been set up.
Many prevention activities have been developed by the Hungarian organization of the Order of Malta, including a website providing new content daily and educational infographics on protective measures against Covid 19. Washable and re-usable face masks are being produced in the sewing workshop, within the Government integration programme for Roma people led by the Hungarian relief service of the Order of Malta. These are then distributed in poor rural areas and in the institutions managed by the Order of Malta in Hungary. The Embassy of the Order of has been supporting both the Association and the relief organization. A new service has been developed to provide the 30 houses for elderly or disabled persons with basic need items.
In Ireland the staff of the Order of Malta operates a Community & Remote Support Service – providing support and assistance with personal hygiene, food, medical prescriptions, home-baking, gardening projects, etc. Other activities are carried out in compliance with the national regulations. The Care in the Community programme continues its assistance for the elderly, the vulnerable, the marginalized and the homeless.
The Italian Relief Corps of the Order of Malta has been greatly involved in the conversion into a Covid specialized hospital of two pavilions of the Fiera Milano (200 intensive and sub-intensive care beds), with larger donations of private persons and entities. The new Hospital opened at the beginning of April with the first 30 beds for ICU. The Italian Relief Corps has also participated in the setting-up of a Hospital with 84 intensive care beds in Civitanova Marche where the local Delegation is providing logistical support. The hospital is now open and functioning. The San Giovanni Battista Hospital in Rome, managed by the Order of Malta, has converted its reception capacity with 100 beds for current patients (one per room), 40 isolated beds for new patients and 18 beds for suspected infected patients. In Genoa, doctors of the Order are providing assistance (through medical, logistical, psychological and spiritual services) to the patients hospitalized in the Splendid hospital ship moored in the port.
Home and street deliveries of food, medicines, PPE (personal protective equipment) and essential goods for elderly and needy people continue in the Delegations of the three Grand Priories. The Military Corps has mobilized hundreds of volunteers to offer technical assistance to serve in the military hospital in Baggio and the Gravedona hospital and in Crema field hospital as well as to patrol city streets, also with drones, to prevent violations of the Covid-19 restrictions. Assistance service to the homeless, to the elderly living in institutes and to inmates as well as to people with cancer is also underway. Screening of passengers is still going on in the airports of Milan Malpensa, Venice, Pisa, Bari, Catania and Turin. Psychological support with a hotline number is provided by professionals.
Activities for the poor and needy in Lithuania including “Meals on wheels” and “Home care” services are ongoing. Over 4.000 litres of disinfectant liquid and of 4.000 disposable medical masks have been distributed to 47 health care institutions. Assistance to the Vilnius municipality health centre is given by meeting travellers at Vilnius airport and providing them with information on preventive measures. The Lithuanian relief corps is also participating in the successful nationwide fundraising campaign “Help Lithuanian doctors” to help hospitals with medical equipment and hygiene kits.
In Malta activities concentrate mostly on the purchase and distribution of food and other essential items for families in need in Malta and Gozo. Hygiene products have been donated to a centre for migrants and refugees.
The programmes “Meals-on-wheels” in Poland have been scaled up. Here the Order of Malta has distributed to hospitals 10,000 tests. Hygiene materials for the hospital in Barczewo and the home for mentally ill people in Szyldak have been collected. In Warsaw meals are distributed twice a week to people in need. Assistance for shopping and transport as well as to families with disabled children who remain at home due to the closing of the Order’s day-care centers is offered. In Cracow a member of the Polish Association has offered two hotels to the Municipality as isolation centres. Volunteers are taking care of the logistics, cleaning and delivery of meals.
Four campaign tents have been set up in two Hospitals in the North of Portugal. 16 campaign tents are left to be set up in coordination with the National authorities. The association manages a shelter for the homeless in Porto in a former hospital, where guests are provided with food, care (shower and clothing services) and medical surveillance in case of Covid 19 symptoms. Assistance in four shelter for the homeless in Lisbon is also provided. The association is also providing support with a volunteer medical team to the Field hospital in Porto.
The Order of Malta in Romania has provided 60.000 facial shields to hospitals and doctors, paramedics and NGO staff working with risk groups. A fundraising campaign was launched to buy more shields. Training for staff and volunteers on preventions measures is being offered. Food is regularly distributed to old and disabled people in various cities. Hot lines giving recommendations and indications have been set up.
The Embassy of the Sovereign Order of Malta in the Republic of Serbia, together with the Latter-day Saint charities, provides assistance especially to those over 65 years of age. During the months of April and May, young volunteers distributed food and basic necessities mainly to this group of people.
Food delivery service has been expanded in Slovakia where support to the homeless is also ongoing.
Medicines and pharmaceutical products are distributed to isolated people. A screening tent has been opened at the entry of the Hospital of Nitra. In Slovenia the Embassy of the Order of Malta is working to get as many protective masks as possible. The volunteers of the Order provide health care, transportation, basic care and personal assistance services and deliver medicines, food or ready meals, essential goods to needy and disabled people, especially in rural areas. The Embassy of the Sovereign Order of Malta to the Republic of Serbia, together with Latter-day Saint Charities is providing assistance especially to those over the age of 65. During the months of April and May, young volunteers distributed food and basic necessities mainly to this group of people.
The Order’s volunteers in Spain provide and deliver hundreds of food bags to people in need in Madrid and in Sevilla. Upon demand of the Sevilla municipality, a new initiative to enrol temporary workers for the upcoming crops in Andalucía has been launched. In joint management with Caritas a hotel, offered by a member of the Order in Barcelona, has been transformed into an emergency hospital.
The Order of Malta in Ukraine has donated medical disposables and supplies to the Infectious Diseases Hospital and the City Clinical Hospital in Ivano-Frankivsk. Assistance to displaced persons is also ensured.
All the necessary prevention measures at the Centro Asistencial Cruz de Malta in Sao Paolo, Brazil, have been implemented. Medical services are ongoing, with priority given to emergencies and flue vaccination campaign.
In Colombia a specific programme to help people affected by the economic crisis, caused by the pandemic, where food and essential goods are distributed regularly through the week, has been activated in some areas of Bogotá and in the city of Cucuta, as well as for migrants coming from Venezuela. First Covid-19 cases have been reported in Malteser International’s – the Order of Malta international relief agency – project area. The assistance project for Venezuelan refugees have been adapted to the current situation. The Order of Malta has supported the national campaign “Colombia cuida a Colombia” to strengthen the collaboration between the civil society, the private sector and the government to mitigate the negative impact of Covid-19 crisis on the most vulnerable people.
Distribution of boxes of non-perishable food items to residents in the marginalized neighbourhoods in cities of the Dominican Republic is taking place. The Order of Malta is receiving donations of medicine and medical equipment from international donors for distribution to the network of over 300 health and medical facilities across the country; in particular, distribution of over 1400 boxes of medical supplies and PPE to three public hospitals in Santo Domingo.
All the necessary prevention measures for staff, volunteers and beneficiaries have been implemented in Mexico. Information campaigns are underway through social medias. In Peru delivery of food packages to needy people in marginalized villages and in the area of Ate Vitarte in Eastern Lima is ensured. Support to the Health Ministry for the transport of blood in different hospitals is also provided. Malteser International has also started to carry out home visits to elderly people. In Puerto Rico the first 100 food parcels to the vulnerable people regularly assisted have been distributed. In Uruguay in the city of Salto hot meals are delivered to deprived children and to the homeless. In Montevideo lending of the HQ kitchen to a group of volunteers for preparing hot meals for the homeless.
The Malta House of Care mobile medical clinic, in Connecticut, United States, in cooperation with the Hospital, has set up a drive-through for coronavirus testing near a busy circular driveway, right in front of Saint Francis hospital. The Federal Association is assuring food distribution and the activity of a soup kitchen. Hand sanitizers, food supply and water are distributed to parishes and food banks in Florida, New Jersey, and New York City.
All necessary prevention measures have been implemented in the Order of Malta’s hospitals in Africa, starting from the one in Djougou in Benin and in the hospital of Bodo, Ivory Coast. Here a field hospital has also been set up for pre-triage and to be ready to receive Covid-19 patients in case of need.
All efforts in the areas of healthcare and WASH are being refocused on Covid-19 prevention projects. Training activities as well as raising awareness campaigns have been scaled up.
In Uganda, funding has been obtained for the establishment of the country’s first isolation ward in partnership with Lubaga Catholic Hospital. Isolation materials in DR Congo procured for the Ebola response are being repurposed for Covid-19. In South Sudan, street theatre and educational songs are being produced in order to raise awareness and encourage precautions amongst the population. Lunch is provided for about 2.000 school children.
The “Brotherhood of Blessed Gerard”, the South African relief organization of the Order of Malta, runs the largest inpatient hospice in South Africa, with over 700 AIDS patients on treatment: nearly 100% of all patients have now received their medicine for the next two months in advance to make sure they do not have to leave their home to get the medicine. Food parcels are distributed to more than 500 of the home care patients and AIDS-patients. The children’s home, also part of the organization run by the Order of Malta, is closed to external visits, and the children – many of whom with previous health conditions – are kept under surveillance by the dedicated staff. Educators sew facemasks with the children as it is becoming increasingly difficult to purchase such protective equipment. The malnutrition clinic has given out baby food to last over the expected lockdown period,
In Afghanistan in collaboration with a local partner, the Order of Malta is supporting health officials in patient screening and hygiene promotion. There is great concern for the health conditions of the Rohingya refugees in the Cox Bazar camps in Bangladesh. To this end, medical and hygienic material for the health project and a hand-washing system have been set up by Malteser International. Projects in Myanmar, Thailand, Bangladesh, and Cambodia have added Covid-19 prevention activities in the fields of Health and WASH, including information campaigns, distribution of hygiene articles, hand washing stations and testing. In Thailand isolation facilities for potential Covid-19 patients in the refugee camps have been set up. Order of Malta Thailand continues to deliver much needed food bags to the residents of Klong Toey, mostly to the elderly, single parents and large families who are experiencing extreme financial hardship due to Covid-19.
In Pakistan Malteser International has intensified hygiene campaigns offering facilities to wash hands. The Order has also distributed food to 3.600 beneficiaries in the Sindh province severely affected by the
In the Philippines, the Order of Malta delivers food packs and bottles of alcohol for hygiene promotion assisting around 2.400 families in need. It is also providing sacks of rice for distribution to some parishes in Manila. The association has supplied the Philippine General Hospital and Dr. Jose Rodriguez Memorial Hospital 100 complete set of PPE
South Korea has distributed the first 1700 relief emergency kits (food, hygiene items) for adults and children in Seoul, Incheon and Daegu.
Information campaign are being thoroughly carried out in Lebanon in all the socio-medical centres in collaboration with the Ministry of Health. Activity of the ten medical and social centres are ongoing for the most important consultations, especially for the patients chronically ill. Mobile clinics in the north and northeast continue to operate under higher security measures to protect employees and patients. The third clinic in the south is currently still working from the hub.
In addition, the Lebanese association is running diagnostic tests in rural area in cooperation with the Lebanese Red Cross and is supporting needy families in the form of financial contribution and has donated 5 ventilators, 1.000 rapid tests and 1.000 PRC tests to the Lebanese Army.
Medical assistance, including a WASH project, in Syria are continuing with the implementation of prevention measures. A part of the additional funding received will be devoted to Covid-19 prevention in the Idlib region.
In Palestine, the Order’s Holy Family Hospital in Bethlehem has set up an operation theatre specifically for Covid-19 patients in case of need.
A series of online meetings “Doctors to Doctors” have been organized by the diplomatic network of the Order of Malta in partnership with a London based Think Tank – Forward Thinking – to enable middle eastern countries to learn best medical and prevention measures. So far, these meetings, to which doctors, virologists, epidemiologist have participated, have taken place with health authorities in Palestine and Yemen. A new roundtable will be organized with Jordan in the coming days. Order of Malta medical experts in the front line in the management of the pandemic are invited to participate.
Basic need items are distributed to elderly and homeless people in Australia. This winter, in addition to distributing 6,000 Coats for the Homeless across every State and territory the Australian Association will also be providing hygiene items to homeless to help protect them from the Covid-19.