Croatia: Switzerland responds to appeal for emergency shelters

Thousands lost their homes as a result of the earthquake that hit Croatia at the end of last year. In response to a request from the Croatian authorities, Swiss Humanitarian Aid is supplying emergency shelters to the earthquake survivors. Two specialists from the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit were deployed to Croatia to help implement Switzerland's relief efforts together with the civil protection authorities. Now back in Switzerland, they share their experiences.

A white tent, an ambulance and other vehicles belonging to the civil protection authorities and humanitarian organisations. People working to provide assistance.

The Croatian civil protection authorities and humanitarian organisations have delivered basic necessities to the earthquake survivors. © FDFA

On 29 December 2020, a magnitude 6.4 earthquake struck the Sisak-Moslavina region in central Croatia, causing severe damage. The earthquake shook the Croatian capital Zagreb, located fifty kilometres away from the epicentre, with shockwaves also felt in neighbouring countries.

A house destroyed by the earthquake.
The homes of many families were destroyed by the earthquake. © FDFA

The Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) immediately offered to help the Croatian authorities responsible for coordinating the relief and rescue operations. Following the initial emergency phase, Croatia appealed for containers and other shelters for around 1,200 families whose homes had been completely destroyed.

Two specialists from the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit – the architects Rolf Grossenbacher and Michael Stoller –  were deployed to Croatia last week to help implement Switzerland's relief efforts in consultation with the civil protection authorities. "As soon as we arrived in Croatia, we talked to the civil protection services and local authorities and met affected families in order to understand their specific needs. The priority was to house these people quickly, mainly because of the harsh winter conditions," explained Rolf Grossenbacher, who headed the operation and has spent twenty years working as a Swiss Humanitarian Aid expert on numerous missions to assist earthquake-stricken communities. In response to families' needs, Swiss Humanitarian Aid will provide 20 mobile housing units for a hundred people by the end of January. Twelve sanitary facilities containing showers and toilets will be supplied further down the line.

A row of containers serving as emergency housing.
Switzerland will deliver several containers to meet the huge demand for emergency shelters. © FDFA

Michael Stoller was responsible for the logistical aspects of supplying the emergency housing. "I went to mobile home suppliers between Slovenia and Croatia to assess which products were most suitable for people on the ground, and arrangements for purchase. In Slovenia, we found a supplier who already had 20 containers available to order, which will now be transported to Croatia," explains Michael Stoller. Michael Stoller will return to Croatia in the next few days when the first mobile homes will be delivered. "The civil protection authorities will distribute the homes in line with families' needs. Our cooperation with the authorities has been excellent, as they are well equipped to respond to crises. Swiss Humanitarian Aid will continue to support the operations, working with the Swiss embassy in Zagreb," confirmed the architects.

A total of CHF 400,000 has been allocated for the entire relief operation.

Swiss Humanitarian Aid

Swiss Humanitarian Aid acts before, during and after conflicts, crises and natural disasters to serve the interests of people in need. It focuses on the reconstruction and rehabilitation of affected areas, disaster risk reduction, the protection of vulnerable people and emergency relief efforts. Swiss Humanitarian Aid is part of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) within the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA).

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