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Activities in the world

The mission to help the sick and the needy

Following its historic mission to help the sick, the needy and the most disadvantaged in society, the Order of Malta continues its work today, operating in more than 120 countries. Its programmes include medical and social assistance, disaster relief in the case of armed conflicts and natural catastrophes, emergency services and first aid corps, help for the elderly, the handicapped and children in need and the provision of first aid training, and support for refugees and internally displaced persons regardless of race, origin or religion. The Order of Malta has been operating with this impartial perspective for over 900 years, caring for people of all beliefs – muslim, orthodox, catholic, protestant, jewish.

The Order relies on the involvement of its 13,500 members, as well as approximately 80,000 trained volunteers and 25,000 employees, the majority of whom are medical personnel. The Order’s organisations worldwide (Grand Priories, National Associations, relief organisations and foundations) are responsible for carrying out its activities, both in its the permanent institutions – such as hospitals, outpatient medical centres and old peoples’ homes – and with its socio-medical and humanitarian programmes.

“Malteser International”

Malteser International is the worldwide relief agency of the Order of Malta for humanitarian aid. With over 100 projects annually in some 25 countries throughout Africa, Asia and the Americas, we provide emergency relief after disasters and support recovery efforts with a focus on sustainable development.

Malteser International is a non-governmental organization with headquarters in Europe and America. The organization’s General Secretariat as well as its European headquarters are located in Cologne, Germany. The American headquarters are based in Miami, Florida, USA. The international network of the Order of Malta plays an essential role in our work, allowing us to help people in need quickly and efficiently. Currently, 25 national associations and priories of the Order of Malta are members of Malteser International.

Hospitals, medical centres and health programmes

Most of the Order of Malta’s hospitals are situated in Europe – in particular in Germany, France, England and Italy, with the majority as general hospitals. The Order’s hospital in Rome is specialised in neurological treatment and rehabilitation. The hospital in England, and some in Germany, have special units for the treatment of the terminally ill, with appropriate palliative specialists. Similar special units work in Argentina, Australia, Italy, South Africa and the United States. Care for the terminally ill in hospitals, hospices and at home has developed during recent years into one of the key projects among the Order’s activities. The combination of round-the-clock care and specially trained volunteers in an environment which operates according to Catholic ethics is an important part of the Order’s medical involvement.


As a joint activity of the whole Order, a maternity hospital in Bethlehem, Palestine, is run under the operational responsibilities of the French Association. The hospital provides the population of Bethlehem and its surroundings with an indispensable service, offering women of the region the only possible place to give birth under European medical standards. Since 1990, more than 54,000 babies have been born there. The salaries paid to the 140 local employees provide support for over 2,000 people.

The Order runs 11 medical centres in Lebanon, three of which were badly damaged in recent conflicts but have now been restored to full service, caring for the local populations of all of the country’s religious groups. Entire regions depend on this healthcare and the centres provide 250,000 medical services a year, not including innumerable local medical visits to the smaller villages.

As well as the medical centres and the hospitals it runs in France, the French Association runs hospitals and dispensaries in Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Madagascar and Togo.

In Senegal and Cambodia the Order runs special hospitals for leprosy sufferers. For a long time leprosy relief has been one of the main activities of the Order’s work in the Third World.

The Order also operates many medical centres around the world. In Italy there are specialised institutions for the care of diabetics. There is a similar institution in Prague, Czech Republic, for children. The institutions founded in Lebanon and El Salvador during the civil wars, are now an important part of their national health systems.

In the United States the American, Federal, and Western Associations, operate a hospital, in the north of Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. It has 64 beds, a paediatric wing, specialty outpatient clinics, maternity services, and a modern laboratory. It is the only hospital in the region. The Dominican Association runs specialist centres providing medical services for mothers and children.

There are also medical centres in Poland, Hungary, the United States, Brazil, Peru and South Africa. In developing countries, many hospitals, medical centres and dispensaries are supported, and at times directed, by the Order.

The wide-ranging medical aid provided by Malteser International in DR Congo includes support for more than 350 health centres, the provision of medical and psychosocial care for abused women, assistance for trauma patients, as well as the rehabilitation of many of the country’s health facilities and public infrastructure.

AIDS programmes are underway in Africa and Central America, with special institutions caring for afflicted mothers and their infants in South Africa and the Philippines.

Emergency corps and ambulance services

The Order of Malta’s relief organisations and ambulance corps operate in over 30 countries. They perform first aid, disaster relief and social services. In addition, they carry out extensive work with the young and to this end the Order trains thousands of volunteers each year in first aid.

Since the foundation in Ireland in 1938 of the ambulance corps, it has become a major provider of first-aid training, ambulance transport and community care services. The service offers first aid, ambulance and emergency care services in most of Ireland’s principal cities and towns, and through its youth section provides youth development programmes and sporting activities. The establishment of relief services has also been very successful in Central and Eastern Europe since 1989, and more recently, in Morocco, where the opening of an institute for ambulance teams in Casablanca in 2006 has meant the provision of training and employment for its young people in an essential field.

Underway since September 2009: enhancement of the ambulance service in Timor-Leste, seriously cut back during the civil strife that has plagued the country in recent years. Promoted by the Order of Malta’s Australian Association and the Order’s Embassy on the island, the first courses started in October 2009, for 35 nurses and for drivers specialised in emergencies who will manage the ambulance services.

The social commitment which is demonstrated through this organised approach has a special appeal for the young and inspires their resolve to volunteer their help for these humanitarian initiatives.

Institutions and services for the elderly and disabled

Increasingly significant are the activities of relief for the elderly. The Order of Malta directs numerous specialised centres for old people in England, Germany, Spain, Austria, the United States, Chile and Mexico. In various countries there is a variety of services to make life at home easier for old people. This includes providing meals on wheels, transport services, visiting services, shopping help and the operation of emergency call systems.

In France the Order of Malta maintains nine specialised medical centres for the disabled. There are also centres for the disabled in Hungary, Poland, Lebanon, Ecuador and the United States.

In Ireland, the Order offers a wide range of services for people with physical and intellectual disabilities, including targeted rehabilitation and training pathways, computer courses as well as holiday packages with educational activities. In addition, the Order’s Associations carry out many other activities for disabled people, including running yearly pilgrimages to Lourdes and to other pilgrimage sites.

Every year for the past 29 years the Order has organised an international summer camp in Europe for the young disabled, as well as running at national level annual camps in Albania, Austria, Belgium, Italy, Macedonia,  Hungary, Romania, Switzerland and Lebanon.