In 2006, Polish humanitarian aid amounted to PLN 3.24 million (USD 1.16 million). The amount supported the people of Lebanon (PLN 1.18 million), Indonesia (PLN 1.1 million), Ecuador (PLN 47,000). Voluntary contributions of PLN 778,000 and PLN 124,000 were made to the United Nations Emergency Relief Fund and Global Avian Influenza Programme of the World Health Organisation respectively.
HUMANITARIAN AID FOR INDONESIA
On 27 May 2006, Indonesia suffered a major earthquake, located in the Yogyakarta district on the Java island. The number of casualties is estimated at over six thousand; and over two hundred thousand people lost their homes. The Indonesian authorities asked the international community for humanitarian aid.
On 29 May 2006, the government of Poland decided to provide humanitarian aid to the cataclysm’s victims. Coordination of the activities was entrusted to the National Centre for Coordination of Rescue Activities and Protection of Inhabitants.
An amount of PLN 1 million was allocated for this purpose. It was delivered to the earthquake victims via a few channels:
- a cheque for USD 100,000 was delivered to the Indonesian Red Cross by the Defence Minister of Poland, Mr. Radosław Sikorski during his visit to Indonesia on 5 June 2006;
- the amount of USD 200,000 was delivered to UNICEF and IOM (International Organization for Migration), which provide significant humanitarian aid to the victims;
- the amount of PLN 26,000 was allocated for the Polish Humanitarian Organization – for the purchase of medical supplies for the victims. Those supplies were sent to Indonesia by aeroplane on 1 June 2006.
On 1 June 2006, a medical team including employees of the National Centre for Coordination of Rescue Activities and Protection of Inhabitants, and of the Polish Medical Mission, together with a field hospital, flew to Indonesia by an aeroplane of the Ministry of National Defence. Assistance in-kind was also provided by the Polish Red Cross. Local support for the team was provided by employees of the Polish Embassy in Jakarta.
HUMANITARIAN AID FOR LEBANON
The open conflict between Israel and Hezbollah forces lasted for a little over a month, but it caused huge losses and long-lasting consequences, especially for the Lebanese people. In this situation Poland, similarly as the other international donors of humanitarian and development aid, could not remain indifferent.
During the first days of August 2006, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ms. Anna Fotyga, decided to allocate PLN 1 million (about 250,000 euro) from the earmarked provisions of the state budget for humanitarian aid for the Lebanese.
This sum was allocated for the purchase of the most needed goods – tents, blankets and power generators, to provide electricity for refugee camps.
On 11 August 2006, the humanitarian aid was transported, in co-operation with the Ministry of National Defence, by aeroplanes of the Polish Air Forces, to Beirut and Damascus. It was provided, through the Polish embassies, to government agencies and non-governmental organizations providing aid to the people of Lebanon – the Lebanese High Relief Commission and the Syrian Red Crescent Society.
Polish aid delivered to Lebanon and Syria met with very high interest among the local authorities and media. In Syria information on Polish aid was published by Arabic daily papers, and the TV presented a reportage from the official handing over of the aid at the Red Crescent office. The situation in Lebanon was similar, and the Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister of Lebanon officially thanked the Polish authorities.
With the organizational support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the City Hall of Łódź organized summer vacation in Poland for children from Northern Israel, who suffered due to the recent conflict. Both institutions also prepared a visit of Lebanese children to Poland.
Poland is increasing its activity and involvement in the building of peace in Lebanon. According to the declaration made on 25 August 2006 by the Minister of Foreign Affairs during the meeting of the European Union General Affairs and External Relations Council, Poland would increase to five hundred soldiers its contingent stationed in Lebanon as part of the UNIFIL peacekeeping forces.
On 31 August 2006, during the Stockholm Conference for Lebanon’s Early recovery, the Minister of Foreign Affairs declared further involvement of Poland (including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Chancellery of President of the Republic of Poland) into the aid for Lebanon, and decided to allocate another 1 million euro (about PLN 4 million) for that purpose. This sum would be designated primarily to support the removal of mines and unexploded shells remaining after the conflict; and also to provide temporary shelters to people who lost their homes as a result of the hostilities.