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Humanitarian aid chief announced

The Swiss foreign ministry has named a new head of Switzerland’s Humanitarian Aid Unit (SHA), ending speculation about the unit’s future.

Manuel Bessler, currently head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Pakistan, will replace Toni Frisch who is due to retire after more than ten years running the SHA.

Bessler will take up his appointment in October. Meanwhile Frisch, who had originally been expected to retire at the end of April, will stay on to ensure the interim.

The SHA is part of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), which comes under the foreign ministry.

Bessler’s appointment, announced on Wednesday, comes after a long period of silence by the foreign ministry during which the humanitarian community in Switzerland was worried that the SDC’s humanitarian arm could be integrated into its development work.

However, Bessler, who has worked in the humanitarian field for more than 20 years, has told swissinfo.ch he will do his utmost to keep up the excellent and important work of the Swiss humanitarian aid.

The SHA unit is made up of about 700 specialists in different fields available for direct intervention in places affected by natural disasters, crises and conflicts.

Its budget for 2011 is SFr312 million ($352 million).

swissinfo.ch and agencies


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