pah historyreports


The Polish Humanitarian Action grew out of the Polish society’s need for agency. In a country which still remembered the historical experience of war and the restrictions imposed by the post-war political system, providing help to others was a symbol of freedom. PAH’s activities have enabled Poles to become a society which, instead of receiving support, provides assistance to the needy throughout the world.


From the very outset, the driving force behind PAH was Janina Ochojska, who first encountered the idea of humanitarian assistance during her stay in France. Inspired by the work of EquiLibre, led by Alain Michel and Pascal Loulmet, Janina decided to engage in voluntary humanitarian work. This resulted in the first shipment of relief supplies to beleaguered Sarajevo in 1992. As Janina recalls: “As a Pole, I thought we should stop receiving help and start helping others.” In this way, the first humanitarian aid operation organised by Poles began. On Polish Radio 3, or Trójka, Janina made an appeal to the public for support. The response exceeded all expectations – Poles could finally be an active party and work for those in need. The first action became a showpiece that enabled the Foundation to continue its charitable activities and led to the sanctioning of the Polish Humanitarian Action in 1994 – the name of the organisation reflected the involvement of the Polish society and the grassroots nature of the assistance. The founders of the organisation were: Janina Ochojska, Tomasz Wilk and Włodzimierz Sarna. The Polish society has been supporting PAH’s activities from the very beginning – we work together with the Poles and thanks to the Poles!


The first decade of the organisation’s activities was of great importance to its development. It was the time when the organisation’s profile, mission and strategy began to take shape. From the very beginning, the Polish Humanitarian Action has been aiming to respond to the needs of people suffering from armed conflicts – at first providing humanitarian aid to the civilian populations of Yugoslavia, Chechnya and Kosovo. The first initiatives relied on immediate assistance and shipments of medicines, food and other bare essentials. Gradually, thanks to the professionalisation of the organisation, PAH’s activities began to take on a more continuous character: in 2001, PAH established its first permanent missions in Kosovo and Chechnya. The latter marked the beginning of the organisation’s specialisation in providing access to safe drinking water and water-and-sanitary facilities, which has become one of the most common ways in which PAH has been providing humanitarian aid throughout the world. Apart from providing access to water and toilets, PAH also began to develop in other areas of humanitarian assistance: access to food, education and safe shelter, as well as protection of the civilian population. PAH’s permanent missions have become a permanent element of its humanitarian aid strategy.

The 1990s were also a time of sweeping changes in Poland. The conflicts in Chechnya and the former Yugoslavia brought about a mass migration within Europe. One of the destinations for the refugees fleeing from conflicts was Poland. Having identified the problem, PAH decided to broaden the scope of its activities. We started to provide counselling, vocational training and legal advice for repatriates and foreigners in Poland. In 2016, this branch of our activity evolved into a separate organisation –

Being a Polish organisation, we are also aware of the problems faced by the citizens of our country. Although Poland had joined the group of developed countries, it still had to struggle with the problem of poverty: some children needed (and still need) support if they were to have unrestricted access to a well-balanced diet, conducive to their proper development. In order to address this problem, in 1998 we launched Pajacyk – a nutrition programme for children throughout Poland, which we have been implementing ever since. This programme has allowed us to raise the public awareness of our activities and thus we have been able to build a trust relationship with the Polish society even more effectively.

In 1997, the Flood of the Millennium in Poland inspired us to pay attention to other problems. Helping flood victims in Poland marked a milestone in the history of our organisation. Since then we have been successively responding to emergency situations caused by natural disasters, and we have worked out effective mechanisms to respond to cataclysms. Immediate humanitarian response to natural disasters has become a permanent element of PAH’s activities. So far we have helped in Sri Lanka, Haiti, the Philippines, New Orleans, Nepal and other places.

Ever since it started its activities, the Polish Humanitarian Action has been firmly committed to development and professionalism. From the very beginning, we have been building our quality and effectiveness on innovative solutions. The pillars of our activities are: providing humanitarian aid to people affected by natural disasters and armed conflicts, as well as responding to poverty. To ensure the highest quality of the support we provide, we have become actively involved in the international system of humanitarian aid clusters. We systematically monitor changes in the sector and in the techniques for providing humanitarian aid, and we constantly adapt to them. Ever since we started our activities, we have helped the needy in 44 countries around the world.

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