Federal Department of Foreign Affairs FDFA

COVID-19: Switzerland strengthens international cooperation

The coronavirus is also spreading in developing countries, and the impact on them is especially severe. In the spirit of solidarity, Switzerland is responding quickly and effectively to the latest challenges through its international cooperation. It has already taken measures in a number of countries to alleviate the economic and social effects of the pandemic and has so far contributed CHF 101.42 million to the global response to COVID-19. On 29 April 2020, the Federal Council has decided that Switzerland will provide CHF 400 million to support international relief efforts in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in developing countries.

Am 31. März 2020 schickte die Schweiz Atemschutzmasken, Brillen und Schutzanzüge nach Moldova, um das Gesundheitspersonal an vorderster Front bei der Bekämpfung von Covid-19 zu schützen.

Thanks to Swiss support, large areas in the Cox Bazaar refugee camp in Bangladesh can be disinfected to prevent the spread of coronavirus. © BRAC Bangladesch

The COVID-19 pandemic is having a drastic effect on people’s health and social lives as well as on the economy, and it is hitting developing countries especially hard. Many of them do not have a functioning healthcare system, and their populations do not have savings, regulated working conditions or a stable social security apparatus to protect them against the loss of their livelihood. Malnutrition, HIV and tuberculosis also make many people in these countries more susceptible to this new lung disease. On top of this, social distancing is hard to implement where large families live together in very small homes, toilets are shared by a large number of people, and drinking water is in short supply. An outbreak of the virus in a refugee camp such as those in Syria and Bangladesh would thus be a humanitarian disaster. Many people are currently losing their livelihoods and will see no choice but to leave their homes.

A nurse in protective clothing stands next to a ventilator used to treat acute COVID-19 cases.
On 31 March 2020, Switzerland sent filtering facepiece masks as well as protective eyewear and suits to Moldova to protect front-line healthcare workers in the fight against COVID-19. © FDFA

Fast and unbureaucratic response in international cooperation

It is in Switzerland’s interests to support other states in the fight to overcome the COVID-19 crisis in order to limit the further spread of the pandemic and its devastating impact. Switzerland’s response in various areas of international cooperation has been fast, effective and flexible:

  • Humanitarian aid: meeting peopleʼs urgent needs (healthcare, food)
  • Bilateral development aid: mitigating the economic and social impact through immediate and medium-term adjustment of activities
  • Global cooperation: responding to global challenges and supporting partner countries
The federal government has responded quickly and unbureaucratically to the global COVID-19 crisis. The FDFA, for its part, has made strategic adjustments to its ongoing programmes with a view to combating the pandemic.
Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis

Switzerland’s humanitarian tradition is a cornerstone of its foreign policy and of special significance in the current situation. To enhance its effectiveness in relation to the coronavirus pandemic, international cooperation is centred on a close relationship or “nexus” between immediate humanitarian aid and medium-to-long-term development cooperation. By combining all areas of international cooperation and working together with local partners, Switzerland can put measures in place professionally and efficiently to create lasting benefits for the populations concerned.

Global support in the fight against COVID-19

The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) has provided CHF 101.42 million to date from its existing budgets for humanitarian aid, bilateral development cooperation and global cooperation in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic (see table below for examples). Switzerland has succeeded in implementing targeted measures quickly in the focus regions thanks to the solid partnerships it enjoys as a result of its long-standing presence in the countries in question.

Breakdown of funds by SDC departments.
The SDC has contributed CHF 101.42 million from its existing budgets in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic. © FDFA

Examples of international cooperation measures against the global spread of the coronavirus

Country

Switzerland’s contribution

Measures

Implemented by

Afghanistan

CHF 1 million

Strengthening crisis resilience and securing the food supply for the long term

Local partner (World Food Programme WFP)

CHF 1.2 million budgeted

Adjustments to measures against COVID-19 in basic education (distance learning, etc.), in accordance with the specifications of the Afghan Ministry of Education

Local partner (Education Cannot Wait ECW)

Albania

CHF 300,000

Support for GPs in the form of online training in patient triage

Local partner (UNDP)

Bosnia and Herzegovina

CHF 190,000

Emergency assistance for at-risk households to maintain their pre-crisis financial situation

Strengthening local communities to respond quickly to emergencies

Local partner (Caritas Switzerland)

Kyrgyzstan

CHF 67,000

Securing the food supply by supporting farmers with seeds

Local partner (Helvetas)

CHF 200,000

Securing the food supply by supporting social institutions

Local partners

Moldova

 

 

CHF 770,000

Strengthening the healthcare sector

Alternative sales channels for SMEs and small-scale farmers to generate income despite the economic collapse

Local partners (UNDP, WHO)

Mongolia

CHF 35,000

Supply of 750 Children with food and hygiene products.

People in need

Nepal

CHF 5 million

Strengthening the Nepalese government to mitigate the economic and social impact on the population

e.g. orderly and safe return of labour migrants, within the vocational training project development of guidelines and protective measures for a safe working environment.

SDC/local partners

Serbia

CHF 200,000

Aid for COVID-19 risk groups

Keeping soup kitchens and blood donations running

Medical supplies

Psychological support for people living in isolation

Local partner (Serbian Red Cross)

Tajikistan

CHF 300,000

Training and awareness raising measures in the healthcare sector on how to deal with COVID-19 infections

Local partners (UNICEF, AGAH)

Tanzania

CHF 500,000

Loan for a COVID-19 screening system

Radio awareness campaign on the dangers of the coronavirus

Local partners

CHF 4 million budgeted

1.2 million households to receive financial support via the Tanzania Social Action Fund (TASAF)

Local partner (TASAF)

Ukraine

 

CHF 150,000

Support for local communities in crisis management through knowledge transfer regarding hygiene measures and dealing with high-risk groups

 

Local partners (Swiss TPH, MoH)

       

Joint, global response

Switzerland is also actively involved in the response to the coronavirus crisis at the multilateral level, helping the international community to combat the pandemic. For instance, the Federal Council decided on 29 April 2020 that Switzerland will provide CHF 400 million to support international relief efforts in connection with COVID-19, particularly in developing countries.

The United Nations, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the G20 and other organisations made an appeal for financial support at the end of March with a view to maintaining their operations during the crisis. They still need funds for additional measures to halt the spread of the virus and mitigate the economic and social impact of the pandemic. As a first step, the Federal Council wants Switzerland to grant the ICRC an interest-free loan of up to CHF 200 million, repayable within seven years.

Switzerland had already provided the World Health Organization (WHO) with CHF 300,000 at the start of February 2020 to prepare hospitals in Laos for the pandemic. Local organisations and specialists are training healthcare staff in the field to diagnose COVID-19 infections and isolate suspected cases.

 The staff of a hospital in Laos stand in front of the entrance to a COVID-19 ward wearing protective masks.
A project funded by Switzerland at the multilateral level: the WHO is preparing hospitals in Laos for the spread of the coronavirus. © WHO

On 2 April 2020, all UN member states but five signed a UN resolution to strengthen global solidarity in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic. Switzerland was one of the countries behind the initiative, a key commitment by the international community to work together in overcoming this crisis.

Swiss Humanitarian Aid is also supplying equipment to selected countries. It sent 10,000 protective suits to Italy on 8 April. Other materials had previously been delivered to China, Nepal, Serbia and Greece. Meanwhile, Switzerland’s own supply of material for combating the pandemic remains secured. All deliveries are checked with the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH), the Federal Office for National Economic Supply (FONES) and the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO).

Swiss NGOs adapting their programmes

Swiss NGOs that are involved in healthcare and receive funding from the SDC are also adapting their activities in line with the current challenges. Here are some examples:

  • Supporting health ministries, local hospitals and clinics through training and protective measures for medical staff
  • Improving sanitation and medical facilities in refugee camps
  • Informing local populations about a wide range of prevention measures
  • Protecting high-risk groups and providing psychological support to those affected

Switzerland’s international cooperation strategically well prepared to respond to crises

Switzerland’s excellent international reputation is based in large measure on its humanitarian tradition. Under its foreign policy strategy, Switzerland provides impartial assistance in the spirit of solidarity in the context of crises, armed conflicts and humanitarian disasters. The focus is on meeting people’s needs, ensuring their safety and dignity and protecting their rights.

Switzerland’s international cooperation strategy builds on this foreign policy strategy and, with the exception of climate funding, does not involve any fixed allocation of funds. This makes it possible to respond to the current challenges in developing countries in a targeted manner.

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