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(photo credit: Lena Kachinski/ICEJ)
In a first, a Polish humanitarian organization is working to provide humanitarian assistance to hard-hit residents of northern Israel, the head of the group said Monday.
The non-governmental Polish Humanitarian Organization will ask the Polish government as well as private donors for about NIS 1 million in aid for residents in the north for two projects, in addition to separate funding for Lebanese civilians, said Janina Ochojska, the group's founder and president.
The head of the Polish humanitarian organization, who has just completed a tour of hard-hit areas in both Lebanon and Israel, said it was imperative that humanitarian assistance get to civilians from both sides of the conflict.
"If you really are a humanitarian organization you have to work for the victims of both sides, and not only be supporting one side," Ochojska said, in veiled criticism of the major international humanitarian organizations who have focused their work on the Lebanese civilians who have fled their homes during the war.
She noted that while all the big humanitarian NGO's could be found working with Lebanese refugees, she was astonished to hear that hers was the first international humanitarian organization to have visited Israeli communities that have been pounded by 4,000 Katyusha rockets over the last month.
Ochojska said she would appeal to the Polish government to fund the purchase of some 3,000 school kits for children from the North, at a total cost of NIS 600,000, while she would work to get private donors in Poland to fund week-long breaks for children and elderly people at locations in central and southern Israel.
The group will also be soliciting funding for hygienic products, baby products and cooking sets for Lebanese civilians in refugee camps.
She added that her organization will seek UN and EU funding for the humanitarian aid projects in Israel.
"These people may not be in refugee camps, but they are in shelters and some of them have lost their houses as well," she said.
The Polish organization, which was established in 1992, has provided humanitarian assistance to 23 countries, including most recently to those hit by the tsunami in southeast Asia.
This project is the first time they are working in Israel, although future projects dealing with water in both Israel and the Palestinian territories are also being planned.
The initiative comes as the central Polish city of Lodz is hosting a group of 15 youngsters from northern Israel for a two-week all-expenses-paid vacation in Poland to give them a respite from the war in the North.
Lodz will also be hosting a group of Lebanese children in the coming days.