Operational resources

SDC Humanitarian Aid has four instruments at its disposal. It can deploy members of the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit (SHA), fund partner organisations, deliver relief supplies and advocate with key actors.

It decides what action to take based on a thorough analysis of the context and the evolving situation. In certain cases, SDC Humanitarian Aid can combine all four courses of action, as it did in the Syria crisis.

Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit (SHA)

The Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit (SHA) is a pool of around 550 people who are on call for various types of deployment. It recruits specialists from sectors including construction and rehabilitation, water and sanitation, the environment and disaster risk reduction, and protection of civilians.

The SHA is the operational arm of SDC Humanitarian Aid. It can deploy specialists on short to medium-term field missions to implement SDC or UN partner projects before, during and after periods of crisis and conflict.

Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit (SHA)


The recent increase in large-scale operations led by various international organisations has made funding all the more important. Today, funding accounts for almost two-thirds of the humanitarian aid provided by the SDC.

Key partners are large organisations like the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the World Food Programme (WFP), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

NGOs such as the Swiss Red Cross (SRC) and Caritas also play a crucial role in international cooperation efforts. 

Food aid and relief supplies

Switzerland is a signatory to the Food Assistance Convention. SDC Humanitarian Aid works to fight undernourishment, malnutrition and hunger, mainly through contributions to the WFP and NGOs. Where possible, it prioritises projects like cash and food voucher programmes, which help the affected communities choose what products they need for themselves (see Cash transfer programming). Another advantage to this approach is that it helps strengthen the local economy.

Survivors of war and natural disasters lack the most basic necessities. SDC Humanitarian Aid helps by dispatching relief supplies from its logistics base in Bern. This includes tents, equipment to sterilise water and emergency medical supplies. Goods stored in warehouses belonging to UN partner organisations and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are sometimes also sent around the world by SDC Humanitarian Aid. In some cases SDC Humanitarian Aid is able to obtain supplies locally and distribute them directly to people in crisis-affected areas.

Dialogue and advocacy

At the diplomatic level, Switzerland advocates for compliance with international humanitarian law, unrestricted humanitarian access to people in need, a safe operating environment for humanitarian organisations and a rights-based approach in dealing with the affected communities. In addition to advocating in multilateral forums, SDC Humanitarian Aid engages in bilateral dialogue with the countries in which it is active. Switzerland is also working towards better global coordination among donors in the humanitarian sector.

Thanks to the funding and operational support it provides multilateral partners and the impact of Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit operations on the ground, Switzerland is considered a credible, respected and influential humanitarian partner.

Swiss Rescue

In the immediate aftermath of earthquakes especially, Swiss Rescue workers are among the first on the scene to find and rescue people from the rubble.

Swiss Rescue