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Visit of the Grand Hospitaller to Uganda and South Sudan



A delegation of the Order of Malta, led by the Grand Hospitaller, Fra’ Alessandro de Franciscis, has ended a week-long visit to Uganda and South Sudan.  Covering some of the Order of Malta’s most important projects in these two countries, the visit – from 16 to 23 November – also aimed to strengthen diplomatic and institutional ties, and to identify possible areas of intervention for future humanitarian activities. Malteser International (MI), the Order of Malta’s international relief agency, has been involved in numerous medical, social and eco-sustainable agricultural development projects in these two central and eastern African countries for almost thirty years.

In Kampala, the capital of Uganda, the Grand Hospitaller had talks with the Minister of Health, Jane Ruth Aceng, with whom he discussed the Order of Malta’s activities in the country and examined the prospects for future collaboration in the medical and humanitarian fields. Happy to have met the Order of Malta’s senior representatives, the Minister said “it gives particular comfort to know that your organization is based on the Christian faith”. For his part, the Grand Hospitaller delivered a letter from the Order of Malta’s Grand Chancellor, Riccardo Paternò di Montecupo, saying he hoped to continue dialogue for opening diplomatic relations with Uganda. On the same day, November 17, Fra’ Alessandro de Franciscis met the Apostolic Nuncio to Uganda, Msgr. Luigi Bianco, who had come to visit Malteser International’s offices and to meet staff and volunteers.

The delegation – composed of presidents of three different Order of Malta Associations:  Erich Lobkowicz, President of the German Association, Joris Voorst von Voorst, President of the Netherlands Association, Desiree Jebsen, President of the Hong Kong Association, Malteser Hilfsdienst President Georg Khevenhüller, Malteser International Secretary-General Clemens Mirbach-Harff and Roland Hansen, Africa Manager for MI – then began an intensive tour of the Order of Malta’s main projects, first in Uganda then in South Sudan.

In Kampala the delegation visited the Mapeera Bakateyamba Home, a shelter housing some children but also the elderly, impoverished, sick, and others in need on the margins of society. The delegates then visited the Suubi Rehabilitation Centre for mothers with severely disabled children. Opened in 2017, the centre currently assists 49 children and hopes to expand.

The delegation’s next call was the St. Michael Lubaga Training Institute in Kampala Hospital, with which Malteser International has been collaborating for several years. It hosts 108 young people studying to become nurses, midwives and laboratory technicians. A new dormitory for female students has been created here with eco-friendly materials. The delegation also witnessed a flawless emergency exercise with the simulation of a road accident and assistance for the injured.

Particularly touching was the visit to the Rhino Refugee Camp in northern Uganda, housing almost 150,000 South Sudanese refugees (according to UNHCR), 80% of whom are women and children. Here, Malteser International provides drinking water by excavating and installing wells and promotes hygiene measures to reduce the spread of diseases, especially cholera. The Order of Malta’s International Relief Agency also provides seed for crops and vegetables, agricultural and fish-farming tools and sponsors training in new agricultural techniques. Thanks to this project 42,146 fruit trees have been planted over the last three years to support 4,000 families.

In 2022, Malteser International also completed the construction of low-CO2 school buildings, using hyper-compressed rice straw produced in Northern Uganda instead of bricks made from local clay cooked with charcoal from burnt trees. Three classrooms for a high school in the refugee settlement of Rhino have also been created, as well as five buildings at the Omugo Technical School with relative equipment. Here, too, refugees have access to education.

Arriving in South Sudan, the delegation visited the neonatal isolation and therapy units in Yei, set up with the help of Malteser International in the local public hospital, and visited the County Commissioner for an exchange of information on the needs of this extremely impoverished part of the country.

In Juba, capital of South Sudan, the Order of Malta’s delegation met with the chargé d’affaires of the German Embassy, Björn Niere, where they discussed cooperation projects. The Grand Hospitaller then visited a primary school on the outskirts of Juba, where the children also receive the only hot meal they will have that day, and an agriculture training centre on the banks of the Nile.

The delegation was then shown Malteser International’s projects for the development of WASH programmes, for access to water and the improvement of sanitation as well as irrigation with waste water, such as the Grey Water Tower, realized with the input of the German Cooperation. Another project, involving the Salesians, involves a women’s cooperative where they are taught to prepare and cook bread as well as the cooperative management of bakeries.

In the evening, during a friendly meeting the delegation welcomed a series of diplomats and government politicians to listen and exchange experiences, proposals and points of view. These included the Minister of Peace Building in the South Sudan Government, Ambassadors of Great Britain, the Netherlands and the European Union, leaders of the International Red Cross and of some United Nations agencies.

The mission ended on November 22 with a breakfast at the residence of the United States Ambassador Michael J. Adler, also attended by the US Government Humanitarian and Health Cooperation Officials working in South Sudan, for a fruitful exchange of ideas on possible future collaborations.

The Sovereign Military Order of Malta - Canadian Association

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