The day after the earthquake on 4 November, the Swiss embassy in Nepal donated 50,000 Swiss francs in emergency aid. Switzerland has more than 60 years of successful international cooperation and not just emergency aid with Nepal, a country with a very rugged topography and over 6,000 rivers and streams.
These bridges have made it easier for people in remote areas to access healthcare and education and have boosted business. Switzerland's approach has changed considerably over the years. Although the SDC initially implemented construction projects itself, the focus soon shifted to empowering local communities. Since Nepal's federal constitution was enacted in 2015, Switzerland's cooperation work has also strengthened the powers of Nepal's federal and provincial governments and municipal authorities in constructing, maintaining and operating bridges. The original approach, which solely addressed the technical aspects, has therefore expanded to encompass citizen participation and good governance. Given that the Nepalese authorities now have the necessary resources and technical know-how to continue the work, the SDC will stop supporting the country's bridge construction at the end of 2023.
The 10,000 bridges constructed have cut average travel times by 2.5 hours, which has improved living standards for around 19 million people over the long term. The construction of a new suspension bridge has also enabled 16% more children, on average, to walk to school and increased health centre attendance by 26%. One out of every five bridges has also attracted traders to the area who have set up new stores, food stalls and workshops.
In 2023 – the year in which Switzerland ends its support – a record 750 bridges have been built, with the construction work fully funded by the Nepalese government. Switzerland solely contributed technical know-how and expertise in methods of implementation, quality assurance and maintenance. It also provided training to enable the relevant authorities to continue the work independently beyond 2023.
Swiss development organisation Helvetas has provided technical assistance for the project. Together with Nepalese engineers, Helvetas is now exporting the know-how acquired to other countries, including Ethiopia, Bhutan and Guatemala as part of a South-South cooperation project.
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