90 years of Ordre de Malte France
Over 200,000 persons assisted every year, 52,000 meals served nationwide and projects in 27 countries. These are some of the numbers of Ordre de Malte France, the Sovereign Order of Malta’s French hospitaller service, currently celebrating its 90 years of activity. It was 5 August 1927 when the Journal officiel de la République française announced that the Order of Malta was launching its French healthcare service, now known as Ordre de Malte France.
Over the years to come, Ordre de Malte France rapidly expanded its presence throughout the country, inaugurating health centres in a series of French localities and a research laboratory for combating Hansen’s Disease in Paris, as well as various leprosy clinics in Equatorial Africa. The commitment to eliminate leprosy has also been sustained by the fundraising initiated the French hospitaller service initiated in 1954, repeated for every World Leprosy Day on 31 January.
In the Fifties, Ordre de Malte France offered help to refugees from behind the Iron Curtain, in particular Poland and Hungary, and raised two million francs. At the same time it was developing an advanced voluntary service to be put in place during large gatherings – such as the ’68 student protests in Paris – and opening numerous assistance centres for disabled people.
In 1972, the first hospital run by the Ordre de Malte France in Benin, Africa was inaugurated which – with the hospital in the Ivory Coast – is still operative today and a reference point for the local communities. In Bethlehem, the “Holy Family” maternity hospital run by the French hospitaller service – a few steps from the Church of the Nativity – has for almost 30 years been offering medical assistance to Palestinian mothers and children and guaranteeing access to health care for women in the surrounding desert regions.
Today, the fight against social exclusion and support for the homeless, with particular emphasis on their social reintegration, are other core activities together with legal assistance offered to immigrants applying for refugee status.
For its 90th anniversary, Ordre de Malte France has brought out a video series on its work sustained by the passion and dedication of its 9,500 volunteers and has launched the social campaign #SansFanfare to stress that there is still much to do. So, more than celebrations, the hope is to continue to serve the poor, the excluded and the sick in the spirit of the Order of Malta’s tradition of helping those in need.