Private development aid needs more weight – Switzerland: standard

Expensive, useless or even harmful: this is the criticism of the federal government's right to development aid. The SVP demands that the corresponding expenditures in the meantime be significantly reduced each year compared to four billion francs. Moreover, the People's Party wants to pay more attention to humanitarian aid on the ground instead of paying hundreds of millions of francs to UN programs and aid organizations that have reached the size of companies. The FDP in turn expects the Confederation to focus more on economic cooperation.

The criticism of the tendering practice in the field of development has arrived in Parliament: the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Council of States recently approved an initiative to give the private sector more attention to development aid.

Fill in knowledge gaps

Affordable, humanitarian and very effective – these attributes can be attributed to the work of the Eurasia Heart Foundation. The foundation was created in 2006 from the activities of the Zurich heart surgeon Paul Vogt. In the year 2000 he began to perform heart surgery in hospitals in developing countries and emerging countries, especially children. His first stop was a clinic in China. Because questions from other hospitals were quickly supported, Vogt quickly employed colleagues, put teams together and traveled with them to new countries to provide medical assistance there.

The work of Paul Vogt and his experts is not limited to working children who can hardly be helped without Swiss help. The teams also provide for the transfer of medical know-how: in any case, the local specialist helps with the operations and is therefore able to treat patients with heart disease themselves. Targeted lessons fill in gaps in knowledge. Where necessary, accompanying measures are taken, for example to reduce the infection rate in the hospitals.

Meanwhile, the Eurasia Heart Foundation has established partnerships with hospitals in 13 countries, particularly in Eastern Europe and Asia. By the end of 2017, more than 13,000 patients had been treated and approximately 3,200 of them had undergone surgery. Because all those involved – from the doctor to the nurse to the technician – make their staff available free of charge, the foundation only has to pay for costs. The budget for the planned 300 heart operations between July 2018 and July 2019 is therefore only 750,000 francs. For each operation, this means about 2,500 francs – an amount that is probably low.

However, because there are many more requests to work with children with heart disease, the foundation can expand its activities almost at its own discretion. In the medium term, therefore, it wants to carry out 500 operations per year, possibly even a thousand in the long term. However, the problem is scarce financial resources. Donor contributions do not grow as fast as the medical network.

A way out would be a professional fundraising. But this would cost a lot of money yourself. At the foundation they therefore prefer to hire the Directorate for Development and Cooperation (Deza). The driving force for obtaining federal funds is Margrit Kessler, former president of the Stiftung Patientenschutz.

Prize yourself from the SVP

Kessler has been a member of the Foundation Board of the Eurasia Heart Foundation since last fall. The former National Council member has already convinced several MPs about their goals. One of them is Christa Markwalder. "The principle seems to me exemplary realized at Vogts Foundation », according to the FDP Nationalrat. SVP National Council member Roland Büchel also receives a lot from the Vogts Foundation. "The activities are based on private initiative and have almost no administrative machinery," he says. For the request to apply for federal funds for the Eurasia Heart Foundation, he has at least "cautious sympathy". He was convinced that Switzerland's spending on development aid should be reduced. But above all, Deza must use its resources differently and consider organizations with lean structures.

Soon it will be decided whether Paul Vogt and his helpers will receive federal funds: at the end of August representatives of his foundation and Deza will meet for an interview.


Created: 21.08.2018, 20:47

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