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Swiss sending emergency aid to Algeria

Rescue teams are still searching for missing people in Algiers Keystone

Switzerland is sending 40 tons of emergency aid to Algeria, where floods and mudslides killed more than 600 people last weekend.

The shipment, to be dispatched on Thursday, comes as the government has decided to increase its aid to developing countries by SFr450 million ($270 million) per year.

The aid to Algeria is a response to a plea for help by the country’s government. The Swiss Red Cross and the Algerian Red Crescent will distribute the shipment.

A logistics expert from the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit (SHAU) and a member of the Red Cross will follow the aid package to Algeria. A SHAU coordinator is already in Algiers to help the Swiss agencies already there.

According to the Swiss Development and Cooperation Agency, the coordinator will also manage the delivery of the supplies. The package is worth SFr400,000 ($240,000).

EU assistance

The Swiss announcement follows the European Commission’s decision to allocate emergency aid worth SFr1.12 million. Torrential downpours on Saturday, mainly in the Bab El Oued neighbourhood of the capital Algiers, caused at least 600 deaths, with perhaps hundreds more still missing.

The Algerian authorities are concerned that bodies still buried under the mud could start an epidemic of water-borne diseases. Finding housing for some 1,500 families has also become urgent.

The unrelated increase in Swiss development aid, to SFr1.5 billion annually for the next four years, must be approved by parliament next spring. “This aid is the best-known and most visible aspect of our international solidarity,” said Joseph Deiss, the foreign minister.

The government’s long-term aim is to hand out by 2010 funding equivalent to 0.4 per cent of Switzerland’s gross domestic product. It is currently 0.34 per cent of the GDP, or 3.2 per cent of the Swiss government’s spending.

The total would also include financing of the International Committee of the Red Cross (SFr280 million) and would complete current humanitarian aid funding to the tune of SFr121 million.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR