Catholic hospital in Jordan struggles to help Syrian refugees

A Jordanian Catholic hospital is appealing for more money to help with the growing influx of Syrian refugees fleeing the conflict in their homeland.

"What we're asking for is just to help us help others," said Sister Alessandra Fumagalli, at a Catholic Near East Welfare Association gathering on Jan. 16 at the Vatican. 

"It's really an emergency," she added. 

Sr. Fumagalli made her remarks at the headquarters of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, speaking alongside Cardinal Edwin O'Brien, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri and the Archbishop of Ottawa, Terrence Prendergast.

The hospital in the Jordanian town of Karak, known as "the Italian Hospital," had to stop construction work it began in 2011 because it ran out of money.

But if enough donations are made, it could have a dialysis ward aimed specifically at the increasing number of children suffering from kidney problems caused by bad water.

The hospital, run by the Comboni sisters, would also expand its capacity to care for pregnant women rooms for women.

It receives patients from a part of Jordan that extends from the area of Tafilah to the Dead Sea, a region that has about 300,000 residents.

But the Syrian conflict between those loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and those opposed to his regime has brought a huge influx of refuges to Jordan. The number of refugees in the area served by the Italian Hospital has now reached over 10,000.

"They are not covered because they're too far away from humanitarian help, which is mostly in the north of Jordan," Sr. Fumagalli told CNA on Jan. 16.

The sister, originally from the Italian town of Varese, recalled how in the last 70 years the hospital received other waves of refugees, including Palestinians and Iraqis.

The hospital has 40 beds, 30 consultant doctors and 5 resident doctors, but the space for patients remains limited.

"We have 15 people coming in three times a day because we just don't have enough seats for them," she said.

"We can't afford to buy medical equipment, so CNEWA is helping us a lot in these things," Sr. Fumagalli explained.

The Catholic charity organized the event where Sr. Fumagalli spoke. It brought together over 120 participants, including the Italian actor Giorgio Lupano and Italian political representatives, hoping to tell Italians of the worsening situation for Christians in the Middle East.

"The main purpose was to raise awareness in Italy of how much the Eastern Churches are in need, in order to support them," said Emanuelle Latini, the administrator of the association's office at the Vatican.

"The more people know about the work we do, the more they will want to help," he added.

More in Middle East - Africa

But Sr. Fumagalli was not the only one who spoke about Christians in the region during the conference.

Issam Bishara, the group's director for Egypt, Lebanon and Syria, spoke about the level of poverty in the Palestinian refugee camp Dbayeh, located in the suburbs of Beirut.

"We've a dream to make this area good for everybody and to continue our service there," said Sr. Fumagalli said. 

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