Religious order on the ground in Ukraine: “No one knows the real state of occupied zones”

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When Russia invaded Ukraine, one of the first humanitarian actors to intervene was the Order of Malta—a religious order that dates back to the 12th century and often serves people living amid armed conflict. Their work in Ukraine—which includes importing food, medicine, power generators, and more—has been impactful. But it has been far from easy in a territory at war.

ANTONIO GAZZANTI PUGLIESE DI COTRONE
Ambassador of the Sovereign Order of Malta in Ukraine
You must be aware of the risk you are having on the territory. You have to act in staff with all the organizations of your nation in the territory. You must stay in touch also with Church and the other humanitarian actors in the field and above all to realize a continuous exchange of information. This is very important, to have a good knowledge of the territory and to have a continuous exchange of information, also with the local authorities. To have and to give information. Apart from this, it is difficult to have complete protection from the risk.

The Ambassador of the Order of Malta to Ukraine says attacks on humanitarian convoys can become a weapon of war.

ANTONIO GAZZANTI PUGLIESE DI COTRONE
Ambassador of the Sovereign Order of Malta in Ukraine
Unfortunately, this is a normal element for a war. War is violent, war does not have principles, humanitarian protection, so this is a consequence of the war, unfortunately. We are seeing this in the Gaza Strip but the same situation is in Ukraine.

The absence of information has made access to the occupied areas of the country “impossible.” Specifically in areas like southeastern Ukraine.

ANTONIO GAZZANTI PUGLIESE DI COTRONE
Ambassador of the Sovereign Order of Malta in Ukraine
Nobody knows the real condition of the population, of children in these parts of the country.

A relationship with the local Catholic Church has been vital for the delivery of humanitarian aid to other areas of the country.

ANTONIO GAZZANTI PUGLIESE DI COTRONE
Ambassador of the Sovereign Order of Malta in Ukraine
You know that in general, when there is a big pressure, material and psychological pressure, you see the best and the worst of people. In this situation, I would like to underline that Ukranian population is a strong population and there is a big faith in Church and in the possibility to see in the Church a key role to, not to solve, unfortunately, in this moment, but to protect some values, some principles and simultaneously to have a future.

The Ambassador visits Ukraine every month and sees the real impact of the humanitarian work. A testament to this was when he was outside of a shelter and a little girl approached him with a gift.

ANTONIO GAZZANTI PUGLIESE DI COTRONE
Ambassador of the Sovereign Order of Malta in Ukraine
I saw her with a big smile and she gave me a present, she gave me a present. A very beautiful pattern of the Order of Malta during the activity of the support for people in need. So, there were a series of volunteers who were giving some presents to people, food, clothes. And this was her impression. Her first impression of the situation when she lived this terrible moment.

The Ambassador says the children have suffered greatly from this conflict and that the psychological consequences are reflected in their learning level and their difficulty integrating.

Immediately after the outbreak of the war, the Order of Malta set up psychological help centers in the eastern part of the country. In 2022, these centers were destroyed. Now, they offer psychological help to more than 50,000 people across over 70 centers.

PA
TR: AT

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