Switzerland provides emergency humanitarian aid to Turkey and Syria

Following the search for survivors by Swiss Rescue in Turkey, the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit of the FDFA has entered a second phase of support. Experts from the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit, including doctors and engineers, are now on the spot to continue helping the Turkish and Syrian population. Relief supplies have also been transported to the affected areas.

Des personnes sont sur un amas de pierres provenant d’un bâtiment effondré.

Residents of the city of Malatya in Turkey look at the rubble of collapsed buildings. © Keystone

20.03.2023 – International donors' conference in Brussels: Switzerland provides CHF 8,5 million for affected population

At the international donors' conference in Brussels, held to secure support for the people of Turkey and Syria in the aftermath of the earthquakes, Manuel Bessler, the Federal Council's delegate for humanitarian aid, announced that Switzerland contributes CHF 8,5 million towards relief efforts in the affected areas.

The humanitarian situation in Syria was already dire before the earthquakes occurred, and has since deteriorated further. The extensive destruction in the affected areas of Turkey has exacerbated the situation. "We are committed to helping the people in both countries and in all affected regions," said Bessler at the donors' conference in Brussels.

Press release

09.03.2023 – "The parents want to be sure that their kids are OK."

23.02.2023 – Earthquakes in Turkey and Syria: Switzerland sends more experts and material

Doctors, engineers, winter tents: Swiss Humanitarian Aid is continuing to support people affected by the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria. It has now been over two weeks since the devastating earthquake and people in the affected areas are still desperately in need of humanitarian assistance. Some CHF 8 million has already been made available to aid the survivors.

Swiss Humanitarian Aid, which is attached to the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA), is continuing to provide assistance to the people affected by the earthquake of 6 February. The authorities' interim figures report over 42,000 deaths in Turkey and nearly 6,000 in Syria.

Press release

A female member of the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit wearing a red waistcoat and a male member wearing a yellow waistcoat stand in front of boxes containing hygiene kits.
A total of 2,000 hygiene kits are being distributed to the population of the Turkish town of Kahramanmaras and its surroundings. © FDFA

16.02.2023 – Rapid response team distributes hygiene kits in Turkey and is further strengthened – Team of experts clarifies needs in Syria

On 16 February 2023, the Rapid Response Team (RRT) will start distributing 500 locally procured hygiene kits (toothpaste, detergent, soap, etc.). Next Friday, the Swiss team will be reinforced with water specialists and a logistician from the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit (SHA). The water specialists will support the survivors in the camps in Hatay with expertise in water and sanitation. In addition,

SDC/Humanitarian Aid plans to send more medical personnel to the damaged area at the beginning of next week to support a local hospital on the ground in providing medical care to survivors.

Last Sunday, 300 winter-proof family tents for 1,500 people arrived in Turkey from Switzerland and were distributed to the affected population by the Turkish Civil Protection (AFAD). Preparations are also underway to transport another 100 winter-proof family tents and 10 multi-purpose tents from the Humanitarian Aid stocks to Hatay, which the Rapid Response Team will distribute to the affected population in and around Hatay.

On 14 February 2023, a team consisting of Swiss and local experts from the region arrived in the Syrian city of Aleppo. The team met with the governor and humanitarian partners and is currently assessing the situation and initiating emergency relief measures.

In addition to financial support to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and two non-governmental organisations in north-western Syria (USD 2 million), the SDC has decided to make further contributions of CHF 3 million to two UN emergency funds for Syria.

The SDC has increased the overall budget for Switzerland's engagement in Turkey and Syria from the original CHF 4 million to CHF 8 million.

13.02.2023 – Switzerland calls in the UN Security Council for rapid humanitarian access to the civilian population in Syria after the earthquake

In its role as co-penholder in the UN Security Council for the humanitarian dossier on Syria, Switzerland, together with Brazil, has requested a meeting of the council in the wake of the catastrophic earthquake in Turkey. This event also affected northern Syria, where the humanitarian situation was already extremely worrying prior to the earthquake. At the meeting, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths briefed the Security Council on the situation in the earthquake zone and the humanitarian needs on the ground.

Following the meeting, during a press stakeout, Switzerland and Brazil jointly called on all stakeholders to provide rapid, unhindered and sustainable humanitarian access to the affected civilian population in Syria. To date, the UN - based on a UN Security Council resolution - has been able to provide cross-border aid to Syria only through the "Bab el Hawa" crossing. Switzerland and Brazil were encouraged by Syria's decision to open two more border crossings, as announced yesterday. They also took the opportunity to underline that should it be necessary, they remain ready to facilitate any decision in the Security Council.

Switzerland is in close contact with humanitarian actors on the ground as well as with the coordinating UN agency OCHA and other UN agencies. In its approach as co-penholder, it is guided by the assessments of these humanitarian actors. The focus is placed on the humanitarian needs of the affected civilian population.

Newsticker: UN Security Council


13.02.2023 - Swiss Rescue ends mission – Switzerland sends more specialists and material to earthquake-hit region

After almost a week of sustained operations, Swiss Rescue is ending its search for survivors of the devastating earthquake in Turkey. The team and the search dogs are returning to Switzerland on Monday 13 February 2023.

The second phase of the emergency aid operations was already launched on Saturday 11 February 2023, with the arrival of the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit's rapid response team in Hatay Province, Turkey. In addition, an initial aid delivery with 300 winter-proof family tents is on its way to the earthquake-hit region.

Press release

10.02.2023 - No official reports of Swiss casualties at present

The FDFA does not currently have any official information from the Turkish or Syrian authorities about Swiss victims following the earthquake.

However, the FDFA has received reports from private individuals of the death of a Swiss relative. Clarifications are underway. The FDFA cannot provide any further information at this time.

10.02.2023 – Fresh reinforcements leave for devastated areas of Turkey and Syria

Over the past few days, 87 specialists of Swiss Rescue and 8 dogs of the organisation Redog have carried out rescue operations at various locations in Hatay Province. The second phase of the emergency response is being launched on 10 February: A second secondment of 12 specialists from the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit will fly from Bern to Adana in Turkey. In addition to the team leader, the secondment will consist of psychologists, logistics experts, doctors, accommodation specialists and others. It will assess the needs of the population on the ground, and determine what action the Confederation can take to meet those needs.

Four specialists to leave for Aleppo on Sunday

In Syria, which has also been severely affected by Monday's earthquake, the security situation is complicating both humanitarian activities and access to the disaster-stricken areas. A group of Swiss specialists, set up by the SDC, will leave Damascus on Monday for Aleppo. These specialists are currently based in the Swiss representations in the region and are familiar with the local context. They will remain there for about 10 days in order to assess needs and realise humanitarian assistance on the ground, particularly in the north-west region.

Over the course of the week, Swiss staff from Swiss representations in the region have been drafted in to boost the SDC's Humanitarian Office in Damascus and some of the SDC's activities have been reassigned to enable it to respond to the emergency, in cooperation with its partners.

In total, CHF 7 million has been released by the SDC to assist the two disaster-stricken countries.

Press release

10.02.2023 – 90 international search and rescue teams in the earthquake zone

Swiss Rescue specialists, with the help of dogs from the Redog organisation, have managed to rescue eleven people so far, among them two babies. Redog is also working directly on the ground with its partner, the Turkish GEA team. A total of 39 people have been rescued from the rubble with the help of dogs sent to Turkey. More than 90 international search and rescue teams are working in the affected areas, under the coordination of the Turkish authorities. 100 hours after the first earthquake, the chances of survival for victims trapped under the rubble are diminishing. For the survivors of the disaster, the lack of water and food, as well as sub-zero temperatures, are a cause for concern.

09.02.2023 – Nine people rescued but chances of survival decrease 72 hours after the first earthquake

Swiss Rescue specialists have managed to rescue nine people so far. More than 90 international search and rescue teams are working in the affected areas under the coordination of the Turkish authorities. 72 hours after the first earthquake, the chances of survival for victims trapped under the rubble are diminishing. For the survivors of the disaster, the lack of water and food, as well as sub-zero temperatures are a cause for concern.

08.02.2023 - Four people saved since Swiss Rescue arrived

Swiss Rescue experts sent to Turkey have succeeded in saving four people since they began their work on Tuesday. The rescue operations, carried out with dogs, took place at various sites in the Hatay province, which was severely affected by the earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria early Monday morning. The four survivors, a young woman, two boys and a man, were rescued from the rubble and taken care of by rescue workers.

Swiss experts are continuing their work in close cooperation with Turkish authorities. They face many logistical challenges due to the extent of the damage. The Swiss Rescue experts arrived in Turkey on Tuesday and will remain there for ten days at most. The deployment of these 87 experts and eight dogs followed a request for help from the Turkish authorities.

SDC sends ten new specialists to Turkey

The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) is stepping up its involvement in Turkey in parallel with the Rescue Chain. This will go beyond the emergency phase. About ten specialists from the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit, particularly in the medical and accommodation sectors, are due to fly from Berne to Turkey on Friday afternoon.

SDC's Humanitarian Office in Damascus reinforced

The security situation in Syria, which was also hit hard by Monday's earthquake, is complicating humanitarian activities in the country. The SDC Humanitarian Office in Damascus has been reinforced by Swiss staff from Swiss representations in the region. Already active in Syria, the SDC has reallocated part of its activities to respond to the emergency, in cooperation with its partners. A mission of Swiss experts will be sent to the field at the end of the week to assess needs and implement humanitarian assistance.

In total, the SDC has so far released 4 million Swiss francs in aid to Turkey and Syria. Of this amount, 1.5 million has been earmarked to support the activities of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in both countries, with 1 million going to Syria.

07.02.2023 – Swiss experts rescue a person in the Hatay province

Swiss Rescue experts sent to Turkey succeeded in saving a person buried by the earthquake on Tuesday. The operation, carried out with rescue dogs, took place in the Hatay province. The victim, a young woman, was freed and taken care of by the emergency workers.

07.02.2023 – Swiss Rescue specialists have begun search and rescue activities

The 80 Swiss Rescue specialists arrived in Adana, Turkey, on Monday night. They then moved to the Hatay province where they set up their operational base. A first briefing with the local authorities took place on Tuesday morning to determine the needs and places of intervention. The team have begun search and rescue activities in Hatay with the aim of rescuing survivors from the rubble.

As far as Syria is concerned, this new disaster adds to an already very precarious situation in the country and requires a medium-term response. The humanitarian office in Damascus and the Swiss representations in the region are in the process of determining what the needs are and how best to meet them.

Already active on the ground in Syria, the SDC is considering reassigning some of its activities to meet these new needs. Staff reinforcements from Swiss representations in the region are also envisaged. Furthermore, the SDC intends to respond to international appeals, including those of the UN, once they are officially launched.

06.02.2023 – Switzerland sends Swiss Rescue team to earthquake zone

Several earthquakes rocked Turkey and Syria on Monday. According to initial information, the Gaziantep region sustained heavy damage and several thousand people were killed or injured.

The Turkish authorities asked for international assistance. Swiss Humanitarian Aid, part of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), has deployed Swiss Rescue to the disaster zones. 80 specialists and eight search dogs were flown out from Zurich to Adana in the Gaziantep region on the evening of 6 February. Martin Jaggi, head of the Swiss Humanitarian Aid rapid response team, explains in the video the priorities for a post-earthquake response. 

Martin Jaggi, head of the Swiss Humanitarian Aid rapid response team, explains the Swiss Confederation's relief measures.

Swiss Rescue can be deployed in the event of severe earthquakes anywhere in the world

Swiss Rescue is an instrument of the Swiss government for immediate emergency assistance in the rescue and care of victims. It consists of public sector civil and military partner organisations, which operate under Swiss Humanitarian Aid in the event of a disaster. Swiss Rescue specialises in locating and rescuing victims of earthquakes abroad and providing initial emergency medical care.

Swiss Rescue was certified in November 2021 as one of the best search and rescue teams in the world. It is usually ready to fly eight to twelve hours after the deployment decision.


SDC advance team already on the ground

An advance team of around ten specialists, mainly members of the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit (SHA), was already dispatched to Turkey on the afternoon of 6 February 2023. They are currently determining the needs in the affected areas. Three SHA experts were already in Turkey supporting the Turkish Ministry of the Interior's National Disaster and Emergency Management Authority.

In parallel, the SDC is examining possibilities for assistance to Syria through its offices in the region.

The FDFA's travel advice advises against non-urgent travel to the affected provinces. 

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