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Natural disaster How does Switzerland respond to a disaster abroad?

Following the earthquake in Indonesia on Friday, September 28, a tsunami has left more than 1,000 people dead, several hundred injured and caused enormous damage. The Indonesian government has called for urgent international aid, and Switzerland has responded with its own offer of assistance.

On Monday, October 1, Switzerland said it would send a team of seven emergency aid experts to help. The group includes doctors, alongside water, construction and logistics experts. The Swiss Humanitarian Aidexternal link (SHA) unit responds to such disasters abroad often by sending highly-trained professionals into the crisis area at short notice to help with specific emergency needs. 

In 2012, the members of the SHA completed more than 500 assignments abroad and spent more than 50,000 days working for the unit. Although who is called in to help varies depending on the situation, that amount tallies up to the equivalent of 135 full-time positions. Between 2010 and 2012, the Rapid Border Intervention Teams were deployed 31 times. 

The Swiss foreign ministry says the main objectives of the SHA are to "help save human lives where they are at risk, and to help alleviate suffering". They see their role in this process as not just focussing on rescue missions, but also on "suitable prevention" measures. The work centres around the victims of natural disasters and armed conflict.

Swiss fundraising campaign for Indonesia

Friday, October 5 is a national fundraising day in Switzerland, to collect funds to help victims of the disaster in Indonesia. It's organised by Swiss Solidarityexternal link, a humanitarian foundation with close links to the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, SRG, the parent company of It works with 26 Swiss NGOs.

Donations can be made hereexternal link, and will take care of the most urgent needs such as access to water, food, shelter and medical care. Later - if the funds allow - projects will also be supported which help the affected population to recover from the disaster, for example by generating income again, or to help with the repair or reconstruction of houses.

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