ZENIT News Agency, The World Seen from Rome  

Knights of Malta's Tall Order in Lebanon
Trying to Aid the 900,000 Left Homeless by War

ROME, AUG. 23, 2006 (Zenit.org).- The Order of Malta is finding that its humanitarian work in Lebanon is more crucial than ever.

The order has been delivering help to the country since 1975, when a civil war had started. It now scrambles to aid more than 900,000 homeless people, about half of them children.

The ancient lay religious order said it is now installing an ultramodern structure for the education of children with encephalopathy in Bhannes and two institutes for the elderly in Roum and Kefraya. In recent years the Knights of Malta have established 10 medical-social centers in several areas of the country, open to all regardless of race or creed.

These centers offer 250,000 medical consultations or interventions a year. Given that the clinics also organize medical visits to villages, at times they are the only possibility of care for the indigent sick of whole areas of Lebanon.

Many of these installations are located a few kilometers from the area where battles have been going on for weeks; every day they receive hundreds of fleeing civilians. More than 8,000 homeless people are received, cured and fed in the Order of Malta's center at Rmeich, and close to 1,000 at Caza de Jezzine.

55 associations helping

At the Kefraya center in the Bekka valley, close to 60 new civilians arrive every day; more than 300, among them many children and newborns, are housed in the Khaldieh center. This is also the case in the Siddikine, Barqa, Ain el Remmaneh and Kobayat centers.

Fifty-five national associations of the Knights of Malta have been activated in support of the Order's Lebanese association, with an initial sum of some $200,000 to cover most urgent needs.

Moreover, the Order of Malta's international rescue corps, established in June 2005, has allocated €60,000 ($76,800), and, since the cease-fire, has been preparing to intervene in Lebanon.

Needed are medicines, bandages, milk for newborns and babies, drinking water, clothes and blankets, fuel for vehicles and electric generators, and food. Meanwhile, the risk of epidemics in refugee camps is growing.

In Lebanon, the Order of Malta is ensuring the supply of medicines, not only for its centers but also for humanitarian organizations, nongovernmental organizations, public hospitals, refugee centers -- work that it carries out with the full agreement of the Lebanese government and the international community.