Emergency relief: Swiss Humanitarian Aid's main mission

A father and daughter beside a fruit and vegetable stall in a refugee camp.
In Iraq millions of people displaced by war have turned to refugee camps for food and water. © SDC

Switzerland provides emergency relief in situations of crisis, conflict and disaster, with full respect for universal humanitarian principles. The main goal of such operations is to save lives and alleviate suffering. The Humanitarian Aid of SDC places the needs of the affected people at the centre of its activities and advocates for their own involvement in humanitarian efforts.

SDC Focus

Emergency relief is the primary mission of the SDC's humanitarian aid activities performed on Switzerland's behalf. This means providing food and drinking water as well as emergency medical care for people in need. It also includes temporary shelter for refugees and internally displaced persons. Ensuring protection for the most vulnerable is a priority of the Humanitarian Aid of SDC.

Needs-based action

Switzerland provides emergency relief where:

  • there are major humanitarian needs and a large number of people face serious difficulties as a result of a crisis, armed conflict, natural or technological disaster or an epidemic;
  • the local, national and regional capacities are lacking or unable to cope with such crisis situations and their consequences.

In order to assess the needs and decide where and when to act, the Humanitarian Aid of SDC is guided by appeals for assistance from the states concerned, the International Committee of the Red Cross and Red Crescent (ICRC) and/or the relevant UN bodies. It also draws on the observations of Swiss representations abroad and various NGOs.

The Humanitarian Aid of SDC responds rapidly on the ground, guided by the specific needs and in accordance with the fundamental principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence.

Emergency relief tools

Switzerland's emergency relief activities take a variety of forms:

  • deployment of Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit experts
  • distribution of food and basic necessities
  • disbursement of funds to partner organisations working in the crisis zones
  • continued international advocacy and on the ground to ensure access to humanitarian aid for the victims.

Background

Humanitarian challenges have multiplied over the years and become more and more complex. Crises, conflicts and disasters are increasing in number, scope, intensity and duration. Such situations often result in violations of international humanitarian law and humanitarian principles. In brief, the humanitarian system is reaching its limits, and the biggest victims are civilian populations. Millions of people have fled suffering and violence worldwide, and such migratory flows and their consequences are also being felt in Europe. But it is always the countries of origin and their neighbouring states that bear most of the burden.

Support for local stakeholders

Switzerland advocates for international efforts that bolster the affected countries' own local, national and regional mechanisms for humanitarian action in situations of crisis or disaster. Only through such an approach can these countries and communities build the resilience needed to withstand future disasters and instability.

Transitioning to reconstruction and rehabilitation

Emergency relief measures generally come to an end when all humanitarian needs are under control and the authorities of the country concerned are again in a position to provide basic services to the local population. Once this has been achieved, humanitarian efforts can concentrate on reconstruction and rehabilitation.

Where a natural disaster has caused total devastation, or in the case of a prolonged crisis such as in Syria, aid programmes should include incentives for local populations to pursue their development autonomously in the medium to long term. Within the SDC, the specialists in humanitarian aid and in development cooperation often work together for the welfare of beneficiaries.

Current projects

Object 13 – 24 of 1082

Improving safety for the Croatian population in mine-infested areas

A deminer removes mines in a meadow

01.06.2017 - 10.12.2024

Mines and other explosive remnants of war are a dangerous legacy from Croatia's 1991–96 war and they continue to pose a threat to the local population. Integrating mine victims economically and socially is also a challenge for Croatian society. As part of its enlargement contribution, Switzerland has provided CHF 3 million to support mine-clearance measures and improve the situation for mine victims and their families. The goal is to improve living conditions for people living in mine-infested areas.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Croatia
GOVERNMENT AND CIVIL SOCIETY
Removal of land mines and explosive remnants of war
Enhanced security and safety

01.06.2017 - 10.12.2024


CHF 3'000'000



Support for international R&D cooperation in Croatia

The founder and managing director of lighting company REFLECTA presenting his lighting project with the aid of a flipchart.

01.05.2017 - 31.12.2022

Croatia ranks above average in terms of investment in new technologies compared to other EU member states but lags behind in the development of new products. Innovation is a key driver of economic development and therefore important to a country with a high unemployment rate. Switzerland is therefore contributing CHF 1 million to support Croatia's Eurostars programme. This programme promotes international R&D cooperation between Croatian SMEs and European partners.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Croatia
Promoting economic growth and improving working conditions

01.05.2017 - 31.12.2022


CHF 1'000'000



Maximum cooperation needed to manage glacier melt in Central Asia

Two men working with specialist equipment on a glacier.

01.05.2017 - 31.12.2020

How to meet the needs of Central Asia’s 68 million inhabitants for water while respecting the glaciers overlooking Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan? The SDC’s project is building on voluntary regional cooperation and rigorous scientific monitoring of the changes taking place in the glaciers.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Central Asia
Water
Water diplomacy and security
Water sector policy
Water resources conservation

01.05.2017 - 31.12.2020


CHF 1'200'000



Higher Income in the South Caucasus Thanks to Competitive Agricultural Products

A man in a protective suit holding a honeycomb full of bees on the roof of a high-rise building.

01.04.2017 - 31.03.2021

Livestock farming is an important source of income for a large part of the rural population in Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. But many farmers live from subsistence farming and produce just enough food for their own needs. The aims of the project are to strengthen smallholder farms and to provide them with access to markets. This way, farmers can sell their honey, meat, cheese and wool products, and sustainably increase their incomes.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
South Caucasus
Agriculture & food security
Agricultural development

01.04.2017 - 31.03.2021


CHF 5'100'000



Reform and Development of Markets, Value Chains and Producers’ Organisations

Reform and development of markets, value chains and producers’ organisations, occupied Palestinian territory

01.03.2017 - 31.08.2021

Private sector-led agriculture and agribusiness in the Palestinian occupied territory (oPT) can play a key role in building a resilient economy towards economic growth and in safeguarding rights and entitlements to natural resources and markets. This program aims at improving income and productivity in the agriculture sector, through improved access to markets, increased share of local market, enhanced competitiveness and profitability of Palestinian agribusinesses.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Palestinian Authority
Agriculture & food security
Agricultural development
Agricultural policy
Agricultural co-operatives & farmers’ organisations

01.03.2017 - 31.08.2021


CHF 3'000'000



Access to drinking water: a challenge in Tajikistan

Three children around a fountain.

01.03.2017 - 28.02.2021

In Tajikistan, the poorest country in Central Asia, half of the 8.5 million inhabitants do not have access to drinking water. In mountainous and rural regions, the figure reaches 80%. This situation poses a serious risk to public health. The SDC's project on 'Safe drinking water and sanitation management in Tajikistan' (SWSMT) focuses on access to drinking water and sanitation in the east of the country.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Tajikistan
Governance
Water
Decentralisation
Water supply
Water sanitation
Public sector policy

01.03.2017 - 28.02.2021


CHF 5'300'000



An attractive labour market for young Kosovars

A young man working on an electrical system.

01.01.2017 - 31.12.2020

The project « Enhancing Youth Employment » is aimed at improving job opportunities for young people in Kosovo, a population segment particularly impacted by unemployment. By connecting employers and job seekers, and by training young people in the skills in demand on the labour market, the project is helping to reduce unemployment and drive economic growth.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Kosovo
Employment & economic development
Vocational training
Employment creation
Vocational training

01.01.2017 - 31.12.2020


CHF 7'570'000



Better public services in fourteen of Benin’s communes

A woman and a man shake hands in front of a sign with Switzerland's logo and the names of the two towns involved in building the bridge.

01.01.2017 - 31.12.2020

Efforts to decentralise public services in Benin are paying off. The SDC is focusing on two of the country’s departments. Since 2008, when the first support programme was launched, significant progress has been seen on the ground.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Benin
Governance
Decentralisation

01.01.2017 - 31.12.2020


CHF 8'500'000



Effective management and prevention of Non-Communicable Diseases

: A woman doctor examining a woman patient.

01.01.2017 - 31.12.2021

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), non-communicable diseases are the biggest cause of death worldwide. On an international average 60% of deaths are linked to NCDs.  This rate is often much higher in low-to-middle-income countries.  This is the case in Kyrgyzstan where cardiovascular diseases, cancer and diabetes account for 80% of deaths

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Kyrgyzstan
Health
Primary health care
Health systems strengthening

01.01.2017 - 31.12.2021


CHF 4'810'000



Sustainably managed pastures and healthy animals: Mongolia's 'green gold'

A woman holding a blue bucket tends to a herd of yak in a vast grassland landscape.

01.01.2017 - 31.12.2020

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the number of livestock in Mongolia has nearly tripled – to the detriment of the country's grasslands. The SDC is supporting an array of measures to encourage the sustainable use of pastureland, and to improve animal health and the marketing of livestock products. These efforts are helping to safeguard the livelihoods of nomadic herder families.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Mongolia
Agriculture & food security
Agricultural land resources
Agricultural co-operatives & farmers’ organisations
Agricultural policy

01.01.2017 - 31.12.2020


CHF 7'776'000



Better training to facilitate the integration of youngsters in rural areas into the labour market

Three young Nigerien men walking through a plantation.

01.01.2017 - 31.12.2021

The SDC is committed to improving the education and vocational training system in Niger. Over 1.5 million young people living in rural areas currently have no access to education or vocational training. Their future ability to enter the labour market depends on good-quality basic education and vocational training tailored to their needs.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Niger

Dosso and Maradi

Vocational training
Employment & economic development
Education
Vocational training
Employment creation
Primary education

01.01.2017 - 31.12.2021


CHF 14'500'000



Safeguarding children’s rights in East Jerusalem

Safeguarding children’s rights in East Jerusalem, occupied Palestinian territory

01.12.2016 - 31.12.2020

By supporting a comprehensive child protection programme in occupied East Jerusalem, Switzerland aims to ensure that vulnerable children at risk of being in conflict with the law or directly affected by the conflict, together with their families, have access to appropriate preventive and protection programmes. The intervention, implemented by UNICEF and its partners, is in line with Switzerland's engagement for the respect of human rights and international humanitarian law in the occupied Palestinian territory.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Palestinian Authority
Governance
Conflict & fragility
Human rights
Legal and judicial development
Conflict prevention
Human rights (incl. Women's rights)

01.12.2016 - 31.12.2020


CHF 2'250'000


Object 13 – 24 of 1082