Swiss in Kabul to consider new aid office

The Swiss Development Agency says food and medical aid is still urgently needed in Afghanistan Keystone Archive

A Swiss delegation is in Afghanistan for talks on opening a local office in the capital, Kabul.

This content was published on February 12, 2002 minutes

The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), the organisation which coordinates Switzerland's overseas aid programmes, said the move would ensure closer cooperation with other international aid agencies and humanitarian organisations already based in the city.

"I'm very optimistic because it looks like everybody is moving up there," said the SDC's Hans Ulrich Salzmann, who has just returned from a fact-finding mission to the region.

"So for coordination with other agencies it would be much easier than being placed in [the Pakistani capital] Islamabad...and have our partners on the spot," he added.

But Salzmann stressed that the delegation to Afghanistan would be assessing security conditions on the ground before making a final decision concerning the relocation of the office.

"Right now it is very calm, people are moving freely and there is not much military presence [on the streets of Kabul]," Salzmann told swissinfo.

"The only security patrols are being carried out by the international force of British and Germans."

Liaison office

If the delegation gives the green light to opening the bureau, it will function primarily as a liaison office and as a distribution centre for humanitarian aid.

"We will have somebody there to be able to contact the different organisations which are partners of SDC programmes, such as the World Food Programme and the International Committee of the Red Cross," Salzmann explained.

The SDC says the Kabul office would be managed by a Swiss member of staff, assisted by a team of local employees.

"It looks like one expat will be placed up there and the rest will be locally employed," Salzmann said.

The Swiss aid agency is currently engaged in financing food and medical programmes throughout Afghanistan.

But Salzmann says more aid is still urgently needed, particularly in rural areas which remain cut off from the country's largest cities.

"Currently it's a calm but unstable situation and I think that if the new government can break the power of the war lords, things could improve," Salzmann said.

"But if they don't succeed in breaking their power, I am not very optimistic."

by Ramsey Zarifeh and Vanessa Mock

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