[Saving lives and alleviating suffering] GIAR Workshop organised by the DRR & RR Programme in Lima (29 May – 2 June 2022)

SDC’s humanitarian aid in emergencies contributes to saving lives and alleviating suffering, responding to principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence, and striving to leave no one without receiving the necessary attention. Emergency response must be quick and effective, so the more local the response, the quicker it is and the better knowledge of the socio-cultural context is guaranteed. This is one of the main contributions of the GIAR (Rapid Intervention and Support Group).

© Presentation of the Lima Regional Hub

#SUIZASUMA

Switzerland, through SDC, has a universal mandate to provide humanitarian assistance in solidarity with communities affected by crises. GIAR as an instrument is a unique mechanism of the Swiss Humanitarian Aid in Latin America, justified by the high levels of risk in the region. In the last 20 years, approximately 25% of all Swiss rapid response interventions globally took place in Latin America and the Caribbean. In view of this, GIAR was created in Peru in 2006 to respond to the growing need to strengthen the humanitarian response in the region. In the midst of the withdrawal of the Swiss bilateral cooperation from the Latin American region, the GIAR mechanism becomes an even more important instrument.

The GIAR is made up of employees working in Coordination Offices (SDC) or at the Swiss Embassies in the region. Its members are deployed in the event of natural disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes, volcanic activity, floods and other extreme weather events. Between 2006 and 2022, the GIAR was in 13 emergencies (four times in Peru, three times in Bolivia, twice in Colombia and once in Brazil, Ecuador, Chile and Guatemala). The activation of the GIAR has important advantages such as the mobilisation of the team without the need for the affected country to declare emergency, the proximity to the affected areas and its knowledge (local context and language). The GIAR currently has 21 active members in the entire LAC region, and also works in coordination with the Local Emergency Teams (EEL’s) in Central America. EEL’s are composed of Swiss NGOs active in a given country, and were created and consolidated by the SDC over the past ten years. The model that is about to be adopted in the Andean countries.

#PREPARED TO SAVE LIVES

At the end of May, the Disaster Risk Reduction and Rapid Response Programme of SDC Regional Hub Lima hosted the 11th Regional GIAR Workshop. The workshop’s objective was to strengthen the mechanism by rehearsing its action protocols and interacting with its main partners. 38 participants from 11 countries in the region attended the workshop: representatives of Swiss Embassies, Swiss Cooperation Offices and NGO partners from Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Peru and Venezuela, as well as representatives from Switzerland.

The workshop took place in Lima during four days (29th May – 2nd June 2022). It allowed experts from the different countries to get to know each other and work as a team to ensure that the GIAR is ready to act at any time in the event of a disaster. A highlight of the work was the simulation exercise, which was a practice run of the Swiss response to a major earthquake (8.8 Mw) and subsequent tsunami in the city of Lima. According to local studies, such an event could result in more than 110,000 deaths, two million injured and more than 353,000 homes destroyed.

Participants were also able to clarify and expand on concepts and roles, analysing the lessons learned during different past GIAR missions such as: i) hurricanes ETA and IOTA in 2020 in Central America, ii) the 7.2 earthquake in Haiti in 2021; and iii) forest fires in Bolivia in 2019 (the most devastating in the last 10 years). Particularly the experience of the response after ETA and IOTA highlighted the crucial role of the EEL’s.

Collaboration and proximity with national agencies are key. Given the vital importance of preparedness for response to major disasters, participants visited SEDAPAL, the water service provider for the city of Lima, with which SDC is formulating the project Aguas en Emergencia (Water in Emergencies). The project seeks to improve SEDAPAL’s preparedness capacities to ensure the quality and accessibility of water services in the event of a major earthquake or other disasters. SDC also renewed the bilateral Humanitarian Agreement in case of a disaster between the Governments of Peru and Switzerland. The agreement ratifies Switzerland’s commitment and solidarity with Peru in terms of humanitarian assistance, consolidating the collaboration that has been forged over six decades.

#COMMITTMENT

Finally, we would like to thank the workshop attendees for their active participation, commitment and valuable contributions. Thanks to them, SDC succeeded in training new GIAR members and consolidating learning, which is essential for being prepared. The workshop concluded with concrete action plans to ensure the strengthening of GIAR capacities in the region. The importance of the GIAR system was also highlighted as Swiss added value in the countries where Switzerland has a presence, and which serves as a model to be replicated for its practicality and efficiency in other regions.

The following videos offer further information about Swiss humanitarian aid:

How Switzerland responds to crises and disasters
©YouTube SDC
Saving lives, alleviating suffering
©YouTube SDC

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For further information:
Web Disaster Risk Reduction and Rapid Response Programme – Lima Hub (Peru) 

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La Agencia Suiza para el Desarrollo y la Cooperación (COSUDE) es la entidad encargada de la cooperación internacional dentro del Departamento Federal de Asuntos Exteriores (DFAE). Con otras oficinas de la Confederación, la COSUDE es responsable de la coordinación general de la cooperación para el desarrollo y de la cooperación con los Países del Este, así como de los programas de ayuda humanitaria suizos.