A Vatican department has teamed up with a Vatican-run pediatric hospital in Rome and Caritas to provide a health mission for Syrian children in Lebanon.
The mission, run by the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, the Bambino Gesu Hospital and Caritas Lebanon, was presented yesterday at the Holy See Press Office. It will begin in early December and last for three months.
Cor Unum is the Holy Father’s instrument for the promotion of charity where there are humanitarian emergencies, conflicts and natural disasters that affect man and his human, social and cultural wellbeing.
Cardinal Robert Sarah, president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, said that the mission “points out the great commitment and close collaboration of different structures of the Holy See, united to share the pastoral of charity and of witness of the Gospel to the least, of which they have been able to give testimony.” The Cardinal explained that, with the funds allocated, help will be given initially to between 3,000-4,000 children, providing the necessary pediatric medicines.
Making reference to the proximity of the Christmas season, he said that “we believe that the greatest present we can give, to help the children suffering because of the Syrian war, is to help them find their smile again and be able to continue living, supporting them in a growth which should not only be material but also and above all spiritual and human.”
According to data provided by the Cardinal, there are more than two million Syrian children refugees, most of them in countries of the Middle East and Mediterranean area. More than 800,000 are in Lebanon, 515,000 in Jordan, 460,000 in Turkey. It must be taken into account, stressed the Cardinal, that close to 52% of them are younger than 17. Moreover, within Syria there are over 4 million displaced minors.
Dr. May El Hachem, head of the mission project in Lebanon and responsible for the Bambino Gesu’s International Activities, spoke about the project and its objectives.
The Syrian refugees are scattered throughout the country. Caritas suggested they work in Bekkam, a region on the border with Syria of Muslim majority, where, because of the distances and the political-military insecurities, the situation is most harmful; there are no structures and no personnel.
She also pointed out that there are medical, social and school needs, but the mission of the Bambino Gesu is medical, and will be concerned with pediatric care. Normally the interventions promoted by the Hospital’s International Activities provide for the formation of personnel and medical care or surgery for children affected by complex pathologies or in countries that lack health structures and personnel.
For his part, Giuseppe Profiti, president of the pediatric Bambino Gesu Hospital explained that at present the Hospital’s commitment is to provide cooperative care in 12 countries. He also said that those who work in the Bambino Gesu are conscious that they are part of a Hospital without walls, perimeters or limits, a Hospital that is as “great as the five continents.” The Hospital’s president added that they cannot remain insensitive in face of grave and difficult situations such as that of Syrian refugees and, in particular, of the children.
Mentioning some of the countries where they have projects, he said that more than places of a mission they are in reality the realization of an idea, as the objective is always the same: not only to cure the children but to look after them as well.
Then the president of Caritas Lebanon, Father Simon Faddoul, gave some significant figures on the work they are doing. Thanks to the UNICEF program, 26,944 Syrian and Lebanese children have been helped to enroll in education. Caritas Lebanon is working with some 382 schools to help children with enrollment expenses and school materials.
In September and October of this year, Caritas Lebanon provided the following medical services: 6,177 infirmary care services, 4,079 practice and general pediatric consultations, 677 gynecological consultations, 5,077 pharmaceutical services, 158 ultrasound tests and 301 vaccinations.
Concluding his remarks, Fr. Faddoul told journalists that “our collaboration gives the positive results we seek and manifests the type of Christian spirit of love that we are called to show when serving the neediest and the humblest.”