As the coronavirus pandemic continues to develop around the globe, the Order of Malta and its 900-year-old mission of care are needed more than ever. Across the world, Order members and volunteers are doing their part to limit the impact of the virus on society’s most vulnerable.

At a time when many health systems threaten to become overwhelmed, Order of Malta Associations and Relief Services are providing vital medical support. The Italian Relief Service moved into action at the beginning of February to screen arrivals at airports in Italy, as well as supporting with medical response, triaging and testing across the nation.

Order of Malta Lebanon staff have been screening and caring for patients at their community health centres and mobile medical units. The Romanian Relief Service are distributing disinfectant in Satu Mare, and staff at the Order’s Holy Family Hospital in Bethlehem are working extra hours to ensure the hospital’s doors are open to young mothers and babies in need in the midst of mass closures in the area.

Malteser International Americas are increasing their mobile medical missions to remote and border areas in project locations, to ensure that the most vulnerable will not be forgotten in this crisis.

Order staff and volunteers have been active in delivering supplies to those in need already isolated from society or at risk. Over the past few weeks, members and volunteers of Order of Malta Korea have packed and distributed over 1,700 emergency relief kits to areas affected by the outbreak in Daegu, Incheon and Seoul. Those receiving boxes include underfed children and refugees, groups struggling more than usual in the midst of the pandemic.

In Italy, youth groups are delivering food and medicines to the housebound in Lombardy and Perugia, following stringent hygiene procedures to prevent the spread of infection. The San Juan Acre soup kitchen in Seville, a lifeline for those in need in the region, is now delivering meals to service users in packs outside of the kitchen, adapting their vital work to meet the needs of this new time.

Many Order entities are helping keep populations well-informed about ways to combat the virus and reduce its spread. Relief services in Romania, Hungary, Austria and Ireland have been using social media to share advice on hygiene and life in isolation, while volunteers in Italy and Romania are supporting free helplines for affected citizens. In Lebanon, Order of Malta staff are delivering classes to spread awareness of the virus and teach good hygiene practices, while Malteser International Americas are stepping up their hygiene training with beneficiaries and personnel to ensure safety for all.

Meanwhile, the Order’s ongoing worldwide programmes with those who are too often forgotten – displaced people, those without healthcare, stigmatised communities – continue, often in the face of great hardship and a changing environment. Some activities are temporarily suspended in response to governmental heath guidelines, but many continue to serve those in need as the Order has since the 11th century. The Global Fund for Forgotten People remains committed to supporting these works in their care for the most vulnerable, and warmly invites applications to our St. John’s Day grant cycle before 31st March 2020.