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“Amateurs not welcome in disaster zones”

Accredited and experienced intentional aid teams should take on the work following catastrophes, according to a leading Swiss aid expert.

Toni Frisch, deputy director-general of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), told a United Nations conference in Geneva on Thursday that “amateurs” were not welcome.

Frisch was leading the two-day meeting of the International Search and Rescue Advisory Group (Insarag) which aimed to draw lessons from the devastating earthquake that hit Haiti on January 12. An estimated 230,000 people died and one million were left homeless.

Volunteers had turned up in Haiti but had lacked tools – locals can also dig with their bare hands, he said, adding that one medical team working at the university hospital in Port-au-Prince didn’t speak French and hadn’t made contact with the hospital director.

When trying to locate survivors after a disaster, Frisch said qualified personnel with special equipment were needed.

The SDC sent three freight aircraft to the earthquake zone with more than 170 tons of aid goods – tents, tarpaulins, medicines, medical materials and non-food items – being distributed.

More than SFr57.8 million ($50.1 million) was pledged by the Swiss public to Swiss Solidarity, a fundraising charity led by the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, swissinfo.ch’s parent company.

Swiss aid was to be used chiefly for reconstruction efforts and the restoration of basic infrastructure.

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