Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit still going strong at 50

The Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit (SHA) is a key component of Switzerland's international cooperation. Founded half a century ago, it now counts some 550 specialists, who can be deployed anywhere in the world to provide assistance in the event of natural disasters or other crises. Discover through pictures and videos some of the programmes and operations that have marked the history of the SHA.


Fifty years of SHA history – from 1973 to the present day – are portrayed in pictures and videos.

From Geneva to Kyiv, SHA specialists provide their services for a few weeks or several months at a time, working for example as a doctor or as a specialist in various fields such as water, security or logistics. For half a century, they have worked in crisis situations, conflicts and natural disasters all over the world. According to Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis, the SHA is "the calling card of Switzerland's humanitarian tradition". It is a pool of active professionals who can be mobilised quickly and flexibly as required.

As part of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA), the SHA works not only for the SDC, but also for international and local organisations. The 550 or so members of the SHA are divided into eleven groups with specific skills, and are active in over 90 countries.

Preparing for future challenges

Since the creation of the SHA, humanitarian needs have grown and crises have often become increasingly complex. "Conflicts, climate change and pandemics multiply the risk of disasters that will require the help of experts. Switzerland needs the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit more than ever," says Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis. It is therefore essential to have a forward-looking outlook in order to be best prepared for future challenges. "I look forward to writing the future chapters of the SHA's rich history together with all its members", so Dominik Stillhart, head of Humanitarian Aid and SHA Division.

This theme is addressed at an event organised to mark the SHA's jubilee on 16 June 2023 in Bern, attended by both active and former members of the SHA. The event is also an opportunity to look back on the SHA's past achievements and the projects it currently has under way in the field.

Testimonials from members of the SHA

50 years in the service of humanitarian aid

Sonia and Robert are members of this unique militia corps that deploys specialists to crisis and disaster areas worldwide. Learn more about their remarkable stories in this podcast. 

SDC Podcast #21
Testimonials from members of the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit.
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