Emergency relief: Swiss Humanitarian Aid's main mission

Local Filipinos coming to draw water at the SHA following Typhoon Haiyan in 2013
After the devastating typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines SHA members have set up several water bladders to provide safe drinking water to the inhabitants in the affected areas. © SDC

Switzerland provides emergency relief during crises, conflicts and natural disasters in accordance with universal humanitarian principles. The main goal of its operations is to save lives and alleviate suffering. Swiss Humanitarian Aid puts the needs of the affected people at the heart of its activities and advocates for their inclusion in humanitarian efforts.

SDC focus

Emergency relief is the main mission of the Swiss Humanitarian Aid within the SDC. This includes ensuring the supply of drinking water, food and emergency medical care for people in need. The Swiss Humanitarian Aid also provides temporary shelter for refugees and IDPs and works to ensure protection for the most vulnerable. 

Needs-based action

Swiss Humanitarian Aid responds rapidly. Its activities are based on needs and are in accordance with the universal principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence. Switzerland provides emergency relief when

  • the humanitarian needs are significant and a large number of people are facing an emergency caused by a crisis, armed conflict, natural or technological disaster, or even an epidemic;

  • the local, national and regional capacities are lacking or insufficient to overcome the crises and their impacts.

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

Emergency relief tools

Switzerland's activities in this field take a variety of forms:

  • deployment of Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit specialists

  • distribution of food and basic necessities

  • contribution of funds to partner organisations working in the crisis locations  

Supporting the empowerment of local actors

Switzerland advocates for international efforts that bolster the local, national and regional mechanisms for humanitarian action of the affected countries in the event of crisis or disaster. This approach is crucial to enabling these countries and the local population to develop their capacity to face such instability in the long term – what is known as 'resilience'.

Transitioning to reconstruction and rehabilitation

Emergency relief measures are stopped when all humanitarian needs are under control and the authorities of the country concerned are once again in a position to provide basic services to the local population. Swiss Humanitarian Aid continues to provide assistance during conflicts or disasters in a second phase by supporting reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts. 

Other topics regarding this field

Cash transfer programming

Cash transfer programming (CTP) enables victims of natural or man-made disasters to purchase items to meet their individual needs through the provision of cash. SDC uses CTP both as an immediate emergency aid and in shelter rehabilitation and livelihood restoration.

Additional information

Current projects

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Switzerland donates ambulances to Syria's suffering population

Switzerland is financing twelve new ambulances to improve the situation of people suffering from the consequences of the war in Syria. © FDFA

20.02.2016 - 31.10.2017

The SDC has delivered twelve new ambulances to the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC). A Swiss delegation accompanied the delivery in the Syrian capital Damascus. The ambulances are urgently needed in Syria because the country's health system has too few ambulances to cope with the enormous number of victims caused by the war, including attacks against hospitals.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Humanitarian Assistance
Health system strengthening
Primary health care
Emergency and relief

20.02.2016 - 31.10.2017

CHF 900'000

African Risk Capacity (ARC)

01.12.2016 - 31.08.2019

The African Risk Capacity is a specialised agency of the African Union to help African countries improve their capacities to better respond to extreme weather events such as droughts and floods, therefore protecting the food security of their populations. It uses modern finance mechanisms such as risk pooling to create pan-African climate response systems. SDC co-finances the expansion of this insurance scheme to new countries, including the development of contingency plans that will allow insurance pay-outs to countries in case of drought or floods related catastrophes.

Nigeria, ACF, Nutrition and WASH assistance for Conflict-Affected Populations in North-East Nigeria

01.09.2016 - 31.08.2017

Since 2009, northeast Nigeria has been affected by insecurity as a result of armed conflict-related violence. The resulting humanitarian crisis has impacted over 14.8 million people, left 7 million in need of humanitarian assistance and displaced over 1.8 million people. With co-funding from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), ACF is complementing this nutrition intervention with WASH activities that will improve access to safe drinking water and sanitation facilities and increase knowledge on hygiene behaviours and sanitation practices.

RCA: DRC Protection Ouham 2016-2017

15.08.2016 - 30.04.2017

Par son appui financier au projet de DRC dans la préfecture de l’Ouham, la DDC participe à l’amélioration des conditions de protection des populations civiles dans les zones affectées par les conflits en RCA, avec une attention particulière sur les enfants et les femmes. Elle permet également d’étendre et renforcer les réponses holistiques aux problématiques de protection générées par les conflits, grâce à une offre de soutien psychosocial et d’assistances spécialisées au sein des communautés identifiés par le monitoring de protection.

NRC Appui au relèvement Ndélé

01.08.2016 - 31.07.2017

Par son appui financier au projet de NRC, la DDC participe à l’amélioration de la sécurité alimentaire et des conditions de vie de populations les plus vulnérables, dans la préfecture de la Bamingui Bangoran, au nord-est de la RCA, par le rétablissement des moyens de subsistance et la réduction de l’impact des maladies liées à l’eau et assainissement. Le projet se déroule dans une zone de grandes tensions dues à une multitude de facteurs et applique des techniques sensibles au conflit d’une manière systématique

IRC, Enhancing multi-sectoral reponse to support conflict-affected populations in northeast Nigeria

01.08.2016 - 31.07.2017

As of June 2016, the violence of the extremist group Boko-Haram displaced 2.7 million people, 6% of them having taken refuge in neighbouring countries. The highly unstable State of Borno hosts 68% of the total displaced population, 86% of them are residing in host communities in dire overcrowded conditions. IRC proposes to improve access on protection, WASH and nutrition services for IDPs, returnees and host communities in Borno State.

Réponse multisectorielle d’urgence dans les territoires de Walikale et Masisi (Nord Kivu)

15.07.2016 - 14.07.2017

Le Nord Kivu reste le théâtre de violences armées fréquentes et de types divers qui induisent des déplacements massifs de populations (plus de 700'000 au Nord Kivu actuellement). Ce projet vise à offrir une réponse rapide multisectorielle (aide alimentaire, AME/abris, EHA, nutrition) aux besoins immédiats et un accès à des services de base aux populations déplacées et retournées vulnérables des territoires du Masisi et Walikale.

Integrated response to health, nutrition and protection needs in Kibua, Walikale (North Kivu)

01.07.2016 - 30.06.2017

The population in targeted areas of North Kivu has been hugely affected by conflict and a large proportion of the population is unable to access basic health, nutrition and protection services when needed. Providing integrated primary health care, nutrition, and protection services to targeted sites in Kibua Health Zone will enable Save the Children (SC) to respond effectively to beneficiary needs using a holistic approach.

Strengthening and sustaining results for children and women in fragile, conflict-affected as well as climate and disaster-prone contexts

01.07.2016 - 30.06.2018

UNICEF through its 138 Country offices (CO) supports governments (especially at local level) and partners to reduce risk and strengthen resilience. To achieve this, UNICEF is currently increasing its focus on fragility and supports disaster risk reduction (DRR), climate change adaptation (CCA) and peacebuilding (PB) while also promoting a multi-hazard approach to Risk Informed Programming (RIP).

Emergency Health response for vulnerable populations affected by conflict in Eastern DR Congo

20.06.2016 - 19.06.2017

The population in the targeted areas of North Kivu remains highly vulnerable as a consequence of a long-standing and complex crisis. Communities are subject to abuses carried out by various armed actors, aggravating their already poor health status, attributed to a lack of quality health services, poor sanitation and insufficient water supply. The tense political and security situation in eastern DRC generates little hope for improved living conditions for people affected by conflict.

ACF-Solidarités : Amélioration de la Sécurité Alimentaire et Nutritionnelle dans les cercles de Tombouctou et de Goundam

15.06.2016 - 14.06.2017

Le contexte humanitaire de la région de Tombouctou se caractérise par des mouvements de populations, un taux de malnutrition élevé, un accès limité aux soins de santé et une sécurité fragile. A travers une réponse intégrée en sécurité alimentaire et nutrition avec un programme eau hygiène et assainissement, ce projet vise à améliorer les conditions de vie des populations vulnérables des Cercles de Tombouctou et de Goundam grâce à un appui monétaire au renforcement de leurs moyens de production et une amélioration de leur environnement sanitaire. 

UNV for Arauca Field Office

15.06.2016 - 14.07.2017

Over the past five years OCHA improved humanitarian coordination in Colombia through robust information management, coordination mechanism and sound assessments. Regular monitoring enabled OCHA to provide existing coordination mechanisms at both national and local levels with timely and accurate information and analyses, therefore increasing the quality of decision making processes directed towards humanitarian action and humanitarian response. It is noteworthy that the role of international humanitarian actors in Colombia is to complement and enhance state and governmental response efforts. However, there are constraints to be surpassed aimed at complementing institutions through better coordination.

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