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Disaster Relief Unit rises to the needs resulting from global disasters and war

Switzerland's Disaster Relief Unit has marked its annual meeting by taking stock of its efforts to come to the aid of victims of global catastrophes. 1999 saw a record number of wars and natural disasters.

This content was published on March 24, 2000 - 15:58

Switzerland's Disaster Relief Unit has marked its annual meeting by taking stock of its efforts to come to the aid of victims of global catastrophes. 1999 saw a record number of wars and natural disasters. But the unit said its response was also at an all-time high.

"Last year, we contributed particularly to the Balkan states", said Toni Frisch who heads the unit's European division. Frisch added that never before had such an extensive amount of resources been invested in the conflict in Kosovo (pictured) in such a short space of time.

The foreign minister, Joseph Deiss, who also attended the meeting in Berne, welcomed new initiatives to boost collaboration with other humanitarian agencies, both local and international. He also said that Switzerland's work in the Balkans proved the success of co-operation with the United Nations. He went a step further by reiterating that "adhesion to the UN would now be the next logical step."

Over the last year, the Disaster Relief Unit joined in several operations. In August it helped to rescue people caught in Turkey's devastating earthquake. Approximately 100 members and 18 sniffer dogs helped to find around 11 in the rubble.

When Nato's campaign to eject Serb forces from Kosovo began last year, the unit said hundreds of Swiss volunteered to help cope with the columns of Kosovar refugees. The unit sent tents and equipment for drinking water. Experts estimated it provided tents for around 15 thousand people.

Swissinfo with agencies

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