People in Need Foundation to open humanitarian aid centres in Afghanistan and Tajikistan

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By Dita Asiedu

The People in Need Foundation (PINF), a non-profit, non-governmental organization whose mission is to inspire Czech people to help others in need, has been running since 1992, and has provided more than 17 million USD in relief, rehabilitation and other assistance to 25 countries and regions. In response to the ongoing US led attacks on terrorist targets in Afghanistan, the foundation has decided to open up humanitarian aid centres in both Afghanistan and Tajikistan. People in Need receives its funds from Czech companies, the Government, various ministries, different UN organisations, and from Czech citizens with SOS appeals. Earlier today, I spoke to the People in Need director, Tomas Pojar. With the foundation having sent aid to areas that have been hit hard by war - such as Bosnia, Kosovo, and Chechnya - I asked Mr Pojar what precautions needed to be taken when going into countries such as these?

"Basically, the different wars are similar in the different countries, and different regions. We are sending experienced Czech workers and journalists and friends who have been travelling and working on the territory of the Balkans and the former Soviet Union. At the moment we are planning the mission for half-a-year and the target is sending medical supplies through the Swedish Committee in Afghanistan and through a network of their field clinics. Our biggest strength, however is that we are flexible and if we should see that the international community has donated medical supplies and that they are not needed in the area, our people can decide to buy whatever is necessary on the local markets in Tajikistan or Central Asia, and bring it to the people to fill the gaps in the humanitarian efforts of the international community."

A UN building in Afghanistan was hit by accident recently leaving four humanitarian aid workers dead - how much planning has gone into this project?.

"At the moment we have Jaromir Stetina, a Czech journalist in Northern Afghanistan and one of the founders and member of the board of the PINF. He is preparing the mission, which is based on our previous experience in Tajikistan and Afghanistan. So, there is a lot of planning. We are sending three people who should work from territory controlled by the Northern Alliance. It's also territory to which we have delivered aid in the past and where we have co-operated with the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan which has been present in the country for 19 years."

The PINF's mission is "to inspire a largeness of spirit in Czech society by helping others in need, and to promote democratic freedoms for all." How willing are the Czech people in helping others in need and how do you reach out to them to promote awareness of the hardship that's out there?

"The Czech people have been contributing significant funds during the last few years, especially through our SOS campaigns and appeals. We have raised significant portions of our funding, a couple of million dollars, from ordinary people here. The situation in Afghanistan is that although we are collecting money, we are not expecting that we will get the core funding from the Czech Republic because Afghanistan is too far and it's not a well known region. It was easier to raise funds for Bosnia, Kosovo, and even Chechnya."