Relief effort gathers pace
Switzerland has offered a total of SFr27 million ($23.5 million) in emergency assistance for countries affected by last week’s tidal waves in southeast Asia.
swissinfo takes a look at where the money is being spent and how Swiss disaster-relief experts are being deployed.
Swiss assistance for victims of the tsunami disaster is being coordinated by the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit, a division of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).
The SDC has sent disaster-management and emergency-relief experts to five countries: Thailand, Sri Lanka, India, Indonesia and the Maldives.
In addition, a number of Swiss humanitarian-aid officials have been seconded to relief programmes set up by the United Nations and the Geneva-based World Health Organization (WHO).
A five-strong Swiss team has been in Indonesia since Friday. One member of the team is in Medan to coordinate relief operations, while the others have been sent to Banda Aceh. The Swiss experts are working with the International Committee of the Red Cross, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies as well as the UN.
On Monday an airborne operation got underway to deliver relief material to inaccessible areas. Four planes are scheduled to transport essential medicine, tents, sleeping bags, blankets and cooking utensils from Switzerland to northern Sumatra. The supplies are being provided by the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit and the Swiss defence ministry.
According to the SDC specialists in Banda Aceh, emergency-aid requirements are “immense”, but distribution to the zones most affected by the tsunami is proving to be “extremely difficult”. SDC staff have reported that vehicles and petrol are in short supply, while the state of road and telecommunications infrastructures “is hindering mobility”.
Last week a small team of Swiss psychologists was sent to Thailand to provide support for Swiss nationals who had flown to the country to be reunited with relatives or to search for information on family and friends who have been reported missing. The Swiss foreign ministry has increased the number of staff working at its embassy in Bangkok.
The Federal Police Office has also sent a 25-strong team to Thailand to help with the task of identifying bodies.
The Swiss relief team is working in two regions: Matara in the southern part of the island and Baticaloa on the east coast. They are mainly involved with the task of purchasing and distributing materials for camps set up for survivors of the tidal waves. Switzerland is providing aid to 3,000 Sri Lankan families.
Swiss disaster-relief experts have been helping to restore drinking-water systems and to clean wells. Essential materials such as tools and water cans have been distributed to camps.
The SDC has sent two water-sanitation specialists to the Maldives. They are working with a WHO team to ensure that clean water is available and that there are sufficient sanitation facilities.
The Swiss government has pledged SFr27 million in emergency aid for southeast Asia.
SFr2.5 million of this has already been spent or allocated.
Switzerland has sent disaster-relief teams to the following countries:
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