Protecting development gains through effective prevention

Article, 13.10.2016

Half of the world's population is exposed to the risk of natural disasters. For the SDC, this is a priority issue. In some countries, social and economic progress achieved through decades of development work can be undone by flooding, an earthquake or a tropical storm. In Haiti, Hurricane Matthew is a recent reminder of just how vulnerable people are.

A school reconstructed by the SDC
In Haiti, schools reconstructed by the SDC after the 2010 earthquake served as emergency shelter during and after the landfall of hurricane Matthew. © SDC

In recent decades, thousands of people have lost their lives as a result of earthquakes, flooding, drought, landslides, hurricanes and volcanic eruptions. These disasters strike poor and industrialised countries alike, but the impact is greater on less developed countries.

Reducing disaster risk is a priority issue for the SDC. Its work in high-risk countries focuses on prevention, improving disaster-response mechanisms and putting in place measures to avoid similar situations in the future. On the ground, it runs its own projects and supports the work of partner organisations.

Switzerland is also able to provide a team of humanitarian experts, the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit, to its partner governments upon request. Experts in reconstruction and risk prevention are seconded to the ministries in charge of these issues. Christian Ubertini works in Haiti, where the SDC is helping reduce the impact of natural disasters through a long-standing bilateral cooperation programme. In Morocco, the SDC is backing the authorities' efforts to implement a national integrated risk-management programme.

"The schools resisted the hurricane"

Christian Ubertini, an architect, has been working in Haiti since 2009. He was in charge of the SDC's school construction programme in Port-au-Prince until 2013, after which he was seconded to the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).

Risk management in Morocco

Morocco is another country where the SDC seconds Swiss experts to government ministries. A risk-management specialist is currently working in the general secretariat of Morocco's Ministry of the Interior. He is advising and assisting the Ministry in implementing the national integrated natural disaster risk management programme, which covers the entire country. This programme brings together the technical ministries in question, universities, regional authorities (prefectures, provinces and communes) and a number of development agencies.

In addition to seconding its experts, the SDC maintains close contact with various ministries through its office in Rabat. It also provides targeted technical and financial support in response to expressed needs.

Knowledge transfer takes place in Switzerland, as well. In September 2016, around 10 Moroccan officials from various ministries, all involved in managing natural risks, went to Switzerland on a study trip. Participants engaged in intense discussions on the preventive strategies and measures that have been put in place at the federal level and in a number of cantons and communes.

Switzerland's work on risk prevention in Morocco, Video (fr)