SHA specialists are divided into expert groups according to their know-how and skills. This allows the unit to offer targeted and effective support in priority areas of work of Switzerland’s humanitarian aid. There are currently eleven expert groups.
The SHA and its expert groups
The specialists of the Coordination and Administration expert group cover a broad range of functions, managing Swiss and international aid programmes during and after conflicts or disasters. The group includes experts in assistance through cash transfers ("cash" programmes).
Professional experience: management and coordination, finance and human resources administration, cash transfer programmes.
The specialists of the Support/Logistics expert group are responsible for the procurement, storage and distribution of basic necessities during and after conflicts or disasters. These include tents, stoves, water disinfection products, hygiene kits and other emergency equipment. The specialists must deliver and install such materials in the shortest time possible in countries in crisis.
Professional experience: logistics, transport, transit, land, sea and air convoys, procurement of technical equipment and inventory management, with experience at national and international levels.
The specialists of the Construction expert group are responsible for planning, advising and carrying out reconstruction projects (accommodation, schools, hospitals) in collaboration with local partners. In situations of acute crisis, they set up temporary structures (tents and emergency shelters). Another of the group's activities is to train local staff, for example in the field of building safety in earthquake zones.
Professional experience: architecture, civil engineering (buildings, roads, access roads), construction management and land-use planning.
The work of the specialists of the Water and Environmental Sanitation expert group includes groundwater abstraction, and setting up or rehabilitating systems for the treatment, storage and distribution of water. They also deal with waste water treatment and carry out tasks to measure and test water quality. After a natural or technological disaster, they conduct evaluations and take the necessary emergency measures in collaboration with the authorities of the affected country and partner organisations. An additional priority for the group is to train local staff.
Professional experience: civil engineering, hydrogeology, chemistry, biology, physics and the environment.
The specialists of the Environment and Disaster Risk Reduction expert group engage in preventive work to reduce disaster risk. Their work includes hazard mapping, setting up prevention mechanisms and raising risk awareness among local populations, and training specialists at the local and national level in the countries where they are active. Members of the group can also be deployed to analyse the environment of a region after a conflict, a natural disaster or a technological accident with humanitarian implications.
Professional experience: environment, natural sciences (chemistry, physics, forestry and agricultural engineering, agronomy, geology, hydrology, geography), management of a crisis unit in Switzerland.
The specialists of the Medical expert group are generally deployed for short-term missions, following a crisis situation or epidemic. Their work includes assessing the medical context, providing care for survivors, distributing health kits and supporting local hospitals of the affected country. In the case of an epidemic, members of the group work to limit the spread of the virus through preventive action with local authorities.
Professional experience: epidemiology, war surgery, disaster medicine, public health, microbiology, nutrition.
Donner naissance à un enfant au milieu des décombres - Le module médical «mère et enfant» de l’Aide humani taire suisse
Dare alla luce una nuova vita tra le macerie - Il modulo medico «madre e figlio» dell'Aiuto umanit ario svizzero
The specialists of the Rescue expert group are deployed on rescue missions organised by Swiss Humanitarian Aid following a major earthquake. Their role is to assist victims of the earthquake and rescue people buried under rubble. In addition to their emergency activities, they advise foreign governments on developing disaster response capacities. These specialists are also mobilised to form international search and rescue teams in urban areas (Urban Search and Rescue). To date, Morocco, Jordan, China and Armenia have benefited from this SHA cooperation.
Professional experience: Swiss Armed Forces rescue group.
Following an earthquake or cyclone, telecommunications are often left damaged. Under such conditions, it is essential that teams deployed by Swiss Humanitarian Aid are able to communicate with each other and with head office in Bern. This service is provided by specialists of the Telecom expert group, who are responsible for issuing and installing all the necessary equipment.
Professional experience: electrical engineering, computing.
The specialists of the Security expert group are deployed to advise Swiss Humanitarian Aid teams on security issues relating to an operation. They carry out an analysis of the situation, assess the risks and train the teams accordingly. Group members serve the entire FDFA. They carry out regular overseas missions to SDC cooperation offices and Swiss embassies. The group's specialists work closely with the FDFA's Crisis Management Centre.
Professional experience: police, security (United Nations, NGO, private sector, etc.)
The members of the Information expert group are specialists in journalism, photography, AV and communication. They coordinate relations with media representatives on the ground during acute crises and document the activities of Swiss Humanitarian Aid. They work closely with FDFA Information. When required, they are called upon to carry out specific communication projects for Swiss Humanitarian Aid at head office.
Professional experience: journalism, writing, audiovisual communication, photography, communication.
Specialists of the expert group “Protection” work to protect the rights, security, integrity and dignity of people affected by armed conflict and natural disasters. As a rule they are seconded to UN humanitarian agencies such as the UNHCR. Depending on the agency and context of deployment, SHA specialists may be called on to work in a variety of specific areas: protection of refugees and internally displaced people, gender-based sexual violence, child protection, integrating protection principles in all humanitarian responses, coordination and advocacy.
Professional experience: expertise in the aforementioned areas with field experience (minimum 2 years) at a specialised or mandated UN agency/NGO.