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Tsunami donations outstrip expectations

The telephone lines were hot with donations from people in Switzerland Keystone

The Swiss Solidarity charity says it has raised a record SFr130 million ($110.2 million) to help survivors of the Asian tsunami catastrophe.

The charity, which is the fundraising arm of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, said on Monday that the lion’s share of the money would be spent on reconstruction work.

Swiss Solidarity and Swiss aid organisations paid tribute to the public at a news conference on Monday in Bern, saying they had been impressed by the extraordinary willingness to give.

“But we do not have too much money in view of the extent of the catastrophe,” commented Remigio Ratti, president of the Swiss Solidarity foundation.

Representatives of Swiss Solidarity said most of the money raised would go towards reconstruction work over the next three to five years.

Up to 15 per cent of the funds will probably be spent on immediate relief operations.

The charity said almost 90 per cent of the money came from private individuals. Around 150,000 donations were registered over the internet, with an average pledge of SFr127.

Felix Bollmann, the foundation’s director, said the internet had been a vital channel for the fundraising effort.

Partnership approach

Roland Jeanneret, the coordinator of Swiss Solidarity, revealed that the charity was working with 30 partners, of which 14 had submitted proposals.

The charity’s finance committee will decide which aid projects are to be funded.

Jeanneret said relief organisations had already received SFr10 million to spend on urgent aid.

“The money is flowing,” he said, adding that Swiss Solidarity had the necessary structures in place to cope with the enormous amount of work.

As a rule, aid organisations must find 20 per cent of the total cost of a project on their own.

The Swiss Coalition of Development Organisations has challenged this, arguing that aid agencies are not in a financial position to do this because the bulk of tsunami donations have gone to Swiss Solidarity.

The Catholic charity, Caritas, said it would be spending SFr30-40 million on reconstruction efforts.

Director Jürg Krummenacher commented that many people had lost everything after the tidal waves had struck.

Asian tsunami

Swiss citizens who were in southeast Asia when the tsunami struck on December 26 can also request support from Swiss Solidarity.

According to provisional guidelines from the foundation, Swiss nationals living in one of the countries affected by the tidal waves can also turn to the Organisation of the Swiss Abroad, which has close links with the charity.

Switzerland’s Walter Kälin, the UN Secretary-General’s representative on the human rights of internally displaced persons, told swissinfo that he had been impressed by the response to the tragedy.

“What has been very encouraging is to see all the international aid coming so quickly. It’s also encouraging to see that the system is working,” he said.

“Of course, one also sees all the difficulties of such a vast operation, but looking at how huge the disaster is, I am quite satisfied for the time being.”

But Kälin said he would be monitoring the situation to ensure that the world’s attention remained focused on rebuilding the region.

“That’s where we have to be really careful: how many people will still be displaced one year after this disaster?” he said.

swissinfo with agencies

Swiss Solidarity’s fundraising campaign:

Total: SFr130 million ($110.2 million) – SFr16 million more than expected.
90% of pledges have come from private individuals.
About 150,000 donations were made via the internet.
10-15% of the money will go on immediate relief.
The rest is earmarked for reconstruction work over the next 3-5 years.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR