(Communicated by Yad Sarah)
For the first time ever, an Israeli Jewish organization has been recognized as an advisory body to the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations. In a unanimous decision on Friday, the UN Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), conferred on Yad Sarah the highest status a non-governmental organization can achieve at the global level.
Commenting on the significance of this new development, Meir Handelsman, International Professional Relations Coordinator for Yad Sarah, said that the recognition "allows us to participate in international conferences convened by the UN on matters associated with our activities and to take part in special meetings of the General Assembly as well as discussions of other international bodies. Yad Sarah representatives will act as experts and advisors to governments and to UN institutions. In addition, Yad Sarah representatives will be able to participate in ECOSOC sessions and its sub-committees and take active part in the discussions, as well as raise new topics for consideration.
Handelsman noted that conferring this status on Yad Sarah is first and foremost a tribute to the goals and operation of the organization, particularly the outstanding work done by its staff and devoted volunteers and donors.
It is noteworthy that the resolution was unanimously accepted without a vote, despite the fact that the committee head is ta representative from Iran and committee members include representatives from Pakistan, Sudan, China, Cuba and Zimbabwe (among its 19 members).
The German committee representative was the principal driving force in putting the decision through. During the past week Yad Sarah succeeded in convincing a number of committee members to support the proposal by explaining its work and pointing out the interest of other nations. For example, details of Yad Sarah's aid to the Turkish nation after earthquakes hit their country were described, and photographs of the visit of the wife of the president of China to Yad Sarah's Jerusalem headquarters several years ago were shown.
About a year ago Yad Sarah was recognized as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), which gave it UN observer status. Acceptance of Yad Sarah as an advisory body to the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) has much greater significance and importance.
Yad Sarah assists in developing services similar to its own throughout the world. For example, Yad Sarah has helped establish dozens of medical equipment lending branches throughout the Commonwealth of Nations and South Africa. It has also established a medical equipment repair and maintenance shop in Angola, and has planned a service center for special needs children in Uzbekistan, among other projects.
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Yad Sarah was founded 28 years ago and is the best-known volunteer organization in Israel, mainly by virtue of its free short-term lending service of medical equipment. Today Yad Sarah's Jerusalem center and over 100 branches throughout Israel are operated by approximately 6,000 volunteers who come from all sectors of the population. Over the years, Yad Sarah's services have expanded to include emergency alarm systems, transportation for the wheelchair bound, exhibition and guidance centers displaying assistive aids, day rehabilitation centers, geriatric dental clinics - including a mobile unit for the housebound, play centers for special needs children, and more. Last year Yad Sarah volunteeers helped 380,000 families. Its annual operating budget of about $12.3 million comes from donations, mainly from Israel; it gets no ongoing financial support from the government. Surveys have shown that with this budget Yad Sarah saves the Israeli economy more than $320 million in hospitalization costs each year.