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Medair Logo 2013.png
TypeHumanitarian Aid
FocusEmergency relief and recovery
  • Switzerland
Area served
12 countries

Medair is an international non-governmental organization NGO of humanitarian aid with a stated mission, "to relieve suffering in some of the world’s most remote and devastated places."[1] Medair provides emergency relief and recovery services including Health and Nutrition; Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene; and Shelter and Infrastructure.[2] Medair lists its values as: hope, compassion, dignity, accountability, integrity, and faith.[3]

Medair’s statutes were registered in 1989 with the Registre du Commerce of the state of Vaud, Switzerland.[4] Its international and operational headquarters are in Switzerland. Medair has been active in 31 countries, working in some of the most remote, hard-to-reach places in the world.[5] It is independent of any political, economic, or social authority. As a signatory of the Code of Conduct for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and NGOs in Disaster Relief, the organization provides aid to the most vulnerable, irrespective of race, gender, religion, age, or nationality.[6]

As of 2016, Medair employs 908 nationally recruited staff and 174 internationally recruited staff in the field, many with years of humanitarian experience. At its international headquarters in Ecublens Medair employs 134 staff.[7] Medair’s annual operating income in 2016 was USD 61.93 million.[7] Its programs served 1,881,285 direct beneficiaries in 2016.[7]

The organization is responding to the consequences of earthquakes in Nepal, to the Syrian refugee crisis in Lebanon and Jordan and providing relief and recovery services in South Sudan, Iraq, Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Madagascar, Myanmar, Afghanistan, Syria and Somalia. Recent programs have been run in Albania, Angola, Armenia, Bangladesh, Chad, Chechnya, Haiti, India, Indonesia, Ingushetia, Iraq, Iran, Kenya, Kosovo, Liberia, Mozambique, Ossetia, Philippines, Rwanda, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Pakistan, Uganda, and Zimbabwe.


First operation[edit]

In 1988, a small group of eight volunteers, led by Drs. Erik Volkmar and Josianne Volkmar-André, traveled to conflict-affected Soroti, Uganda, with the support of three partner organizations: Medicaments pour L’Afrique (MEDAF), Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF), and Youth with a Mission (YWAM). Their objective was to form an organization that could respond more quickly to crises than their own organizations could.[8] This first project provided support for displaced people as they resettled into towns that lacked essential services.[9]

The first years: 1989–2003[edit]

Upon their return to Switzerland in 1989, Medair was registered as a not-for-profit organization.[9] In 1990, members of this original group conducted an assessment for a second project in Akobo, Sudan.[10] From 1991 to 1992, Medair’s Sudan program established medical care, safe water supply, food, and agricultural assistance for internally displaced persons.[9]

By 1991, Medair was running 3 programs at the same time in Sudan, Liberia, and Iraq.[9] Over the next decade, Medair’s operational capacity expanded until, by 2003, Medair began running as many as 9 country programs at one time in countries like D.R. Congo, Armenia, Zimbabwe, Madagascar, and Somalia.[11]

Throughout 1994 and 1995, Medair underwent major restructuring and became independent of its three founding organizations.[10] Medair continues to partner with MAF to this day,[12] since many of Medair’s activities require traveling to hard-to-reach places.[13] The independent Medair formed with an International Board of Trustees and an Executive Committee to assist the CEO.[10] In 2003, Erik Volkmar, who had been with the organization since its inception, stepped down after 15 years as CEO.[14]

New leader: 2004–2010[edit]

In 2004, Randall Zindler, a graduate of Lancaster University’s MBA program, became CEO.[15] Zindler had held a number of corporate positions with companies like Credit Suisse and Swissair before becoming CEO of Medair.[16]

In his first year as CEO, Zindler mobilized Medair’s response to the Asian tsunami.[17] In 2010, Randall Zindler began a transitional plan for his departure from Medair, leaving officially in January 2011.

Current leadership: 2011–2018[edit]

In 2011, Jim Ingram was appointed as CEO of Medair.[18] Jim began working for Medair as its Finance Director and as a member of the Executive Leadership Team, Jim was involved in all major decisions about Medair’s mission and implementation.[19] Since becoming CEO, Jim has overseen the closure of programs in Sudan, Haiti, Chad, and Zimbabwe, and the start of new programs in Lebanon, Jordan, Syria (Syrian crisis), Iraq, Sierra Leone, the Philippines, Chad, Myanmar, Haiti, and Bangladesh[20]

Current leadership: 2018 - present[edit]

Medair's International Board of Trustees appointed David Verboom as the new CEO of Medair, who started in April 2018.

In 1996, David started his career in the humanitarian and development sector where he worked for NGOs and donors. His first job, as Medair's Country Director for Kenya and South Sudan, was during the 1998 drought and famine. He then took up the Operational Director’s function at Medair headquarters in Switzerland from where he started up and managed the organisation’s emergency relief and recovery programmes in Africa and Asia. In 2002 David returned to the field as Country Director, leading ZOA Refugee Care’s programme in Sri Lanka, This was followed by the Asian tsunami disaster response, after which he joined European Union’s humanitarian department (ECHO) as Head of Office for Sri Lanka and the Maldives. This was followed by taking up the function of ECHO Head of Regional Office for East Asia and the Pacific. In 2013, he was asked to take on the job of ECHO Head of Regional Office for the Middle East. In 2015, David returned to an implementing agency as National Director with World Vision Jerusalem, West Bank, and Gaza. In this capacity he led humanitarian and development programmes focusing on health, education, resilience, and protection on behalf of affected children.

Organizational structure[edit]

Medair’s international Board of Trustees governs the Medair organization. Medair’s Board is appointed or elected by members of the Medair Association. The CEO is responsible for the management of Medair, supported by an executive leadership team.


Medair’s operational headquarters is located in Ecublens, Switzerland. Medair has 6 affiliate offices in Germany, the USA, France, the UK, the Netherlands and Canada.[7] Each affiliate office has its own Board of Trustees.[21] Medair’s affiliate offices provide communication, fundraising, and recruitment support for Medair; they do not carry out or coordinate relief programs themselves. Medair headquarters establishes bases of operation in the countries where it provides relief work.

Field staff[edit]

According to its website, Medair recruits experienced and new relief workers with expertise in project management, health services, nutrition, water, human resources, logistics, communications and construction.[22] Employees are both internationally recruited staff (IRS) and nationally recruited staff (NRS). Medair employs IRS who are committed Christians and experienced professionals.[22]

Prospective Medair staff participate in a Relief and Rehabilitation Orientation Course (ROC). This intensive course takes place three times a year and aims to evaluate and train participants before they go to the field.[23]


Funding for Medair programs come from a combination of sources. In 2016 65.2% of operating income comes from governmental support such as ECHO, USAID, the SDC, and United Nations funding, such as UNICEF. Corporate, foundation and other private donations constitute 18.4% of the operating income, followed by other institutions and NGOs contributing 10.8% to total operating income. Gifts-in-kind and other income provide respectively 5.1% and 0.5% of operating income.[7]


Medair responds to crises with emergency relief and recovery programs that focus on sectors such as health, shelter and infrastructure, water, sanitation, and hygiene promotion (WASH), nutrition and food and livelihoods. In 2016 health sector represented 33% of total beneficiary expense. Shelter and infrastructure sector represented 28% of expense, followed by WASH (20%), nutrition (8%) and food and livelihoods (8%).[7]

Emergency relief[edit]

Medair’s stated goal with emergency relief is to act swiftly to reach communities in crisis.[24] For example, after the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, staff were operational in the district of Ampara, the hardest hit area of Sri Lanka, within five days.[25] After a rapid needs assessment, Medair established that the priorities were water, sanitation, food, and shelter.[25] Working with Bushproof, a company specializing in water technologies for difficult environments, Medair secured emergency drinking water supplies for people living in displacement camps.[26]

Over the next year, Medair’s Sri Lanka projects included shelter construction, restoring the livelihoods of the fishing community through the distribution of boats and nets, and improving public health through latrine construction, well cleaning, and hygiene education.[25]

In Haiti, after the Hurricane Matthew made landfall on October 4, 2016, Medair's emergency response team landed in Port-au-Prince in 72 hours of the hurricane. Medair has assembled emergency shelter and hygiene kits, although the access to the affected coastal communities of Tiburon Peninsula was very difficult. The main road leading to the nearest city of Les Cayes had been badly damaged. As first response, Medair teams traveled by sea to distribute 300 hygiene kits to help prevent cholera. In total, Medair distributed emergency medical kits with medicine for 20,000 people, distributed shelter kits to more than 14,000 people, and gave 16,000 people access to safe drinking water.[7]


Medair works in devastated communities to help families recover from crisis with dignity.[27] These operations often focus on improving the capacity of the community to meet its own needs and prevent further crises, with Medair providing training, strategic supervision, planning, organizing, and financial support.[28]

Medair’s health programs in South Sudan have been noted for their role in building local capacity.[29] Working with local institutions and traditional authorities, Medair invests in the education and training of community health workers and traditional birth attendants.[30] Providing supports and resources to the State Ministry of Health has enabled primary health care services to be brought to communities that formerly lacked even the most basic health care. Numerous clinics and health centres are now staffed with knowledgeable health care providers responding to disease outbreaks, nutritional emergencies, obstetric needs, and routine out-patient care.[29] South Sudanese doctors have participated directly in WASH programs.[30]

Health and nutrition[edit]

Medair’s health and nutrition sector focuses on responding to the greatest unmet medical needs, from the establishment or support of health clinics to nutrition programs and vaccination campaigns.[31] For example, in the Ragh district of Badakhshan province in northeast Afghanistan, a 1999–2002 study published in Lancet concluded that the region had the highest rates of maternal mortality ever recorded (6,507 per 100,000).[32]

In 2003, Medair helped develop the first emergency obstetric care facility in the area.[33] At that time, there were hardly any health clinics there, but by 2009, Medair had supported the establishment of 7 health facilities and 55 health posts.[34] Medair also ran a safe motherhood program that focused on community midwifery training.[33]

Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH)[edit]

Medair’s WASH programs focus on improving access to safe drinking water, latrine construction, and hand-washing and hygiene promotion.[35] For example, after Cyclone Gafilo struck Madagascar in 2004, Medair conducted a rapid assessment and implemented an emergency WASH project to clean and disinfect 1,400 existing wells in a little over a week.[36] The initially skeptical local residents quickly became impressed by Medair’s work, and started calling the Medair team, NGO “No Bla-bla.”[37] These projects included significant beneficiary participation, with local residents assisting in all aspects. Medair also trained local residents in well and latrine construction and maintenance.[38]

Shelter and infrastructure[edit]

Medair lists its shelter and infrastructure projects as: the provision of safe, permanent and semi-permanent shelters, training on construction techniques, and building clinics, roads, and bridges.[39] In 2010, after the Haiti earthquake, Medair provided transitional shelters to people without housing in Jacmel and the surrounding area.[40] The transitional shelters are designed to be built into permanent homes in the future. On Friday, November 5, Emma Le Beau of Medair spoke on CTV News about the preparations for Hurricane Tomas (2010). She explained that these transitional shelters had housed 8,500 people so far.[41] In January 2011, Medair reported that 11,622 people had now been housed.[42]

Other notable projects[edit]


After the Rwandan genocide in 1994, Medair provided emergency relief to the region of Bugesera, which had lost 80% of its population to the genocide.[43] Medair worked to get medical centers running again and provided reconciliation seminars.[10] Medair brought in psychiatrists to provide trauma counseling for both Hutus and Tutsis.[44] Workshops brought together mixed ethnic groups to share their stories.[44]


After a massive earthquake in Pakistan in 2005, Medair teams focused on distributing shelter kits, as winter was approaching.[45] Once families had completed the construction of their semi-permanent homes, they received a wood stove, mattresses, blankets, and hygienic supplies.[46] Medair’s rehabilitation program included livestock and seed distribution, and reconstruction work in a remote mountainous region.[45]


Medair spent over a decade in Uganda, from 1999 to 2010, making it one of Medair’s longest running programs.[47] During this time, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) terrorized the majority of northern Uganda. Medair worked with some of the most isolated populations living in camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) at the height of the crisis.[48] Later, Medair helped these people resettle into their villages of origin.[49]

South Sudan[edit]

In February 2010, Medair made headlines for a study conducted with partner NGO, Save the Children, which revealed high rates of malnutrition in Akobo, South Sudan.[50] With a Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) level of 45.7% and a severe acute malnutrition (SAM) level of 15.5%, Akobo’s rates were three times higher than emergency malnutrition thresholds.[51] Both organizations responded quickly with a therapeutic feeding program.[52]


In 2012, a serious security incident occurred when Medair staff were abducted in Afghanistan’s Badakhshan province. Thanks to the actions of international security forces, and a well-rehearsed internal crisis plan, all of the staff were safely freed. After the incident, Medair closed operations in Badakhshan while continuing to work in Afghanistan’s Central Highlands.[53] Medair left a long-term impact in Badakhshan, working there from 2000-2012: improved access to water and sanitation, expanded and upgraded provincial health care system, and life-saving health and nutrition services in very remote communities.[54]

Syrian crisis[edit]

In 2012, Medair sent emergency teams to Lebanon and Jordan to respond to the flood of refugees arriving from Syria. Shelter was an urgent priority in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley where winter brings snow and freezing weather. Medair distributed emergency shelter kits and provided families with wood-burning stoves, blankets, and mattresses.[55]

The Philippines[edit]

In 2013, Medair's emergency response team provided relief to isolated communities in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan, which killed more than 6,000 people and displaced more than four million people. In its first year, Medair reached more than 60,000 people with shelters, health and hygiene support.[56]

Affiliations, accreditations, partnerships[edit]

In 2001, Medair became the first European NGO to obtain ISO 9001:2000 worldwide certification.[57] ISO is a family of international quality management standards and guidelines, normally applied to industry. Medair explains that ISO certification represents Medair’s aim to be accountable to beneficiaries for the quality of goods and services provided in the same way industry is accountable to consumers.[58]

Beneficiary accountability is an important tenet to Medair’s operations. Medair was the first member of the Humanitarian Accountability Partnership International (HAP-I).[59] Other members include CARE International, Oxfam, World Vision, and Save the Children.[60]

In 2006, the Humanitarian Exchange Magazine published an assessment of beneficiary accountability in humanitarian aid. In the report, many relief organizations are examined for their approaches to implementing beneficiary accountability.[61] Medair’s work in Darfur was highlighted for its use of surveys, interviews, and polls to obtain beneficiary input and feedback. “Beneficiaries appreciated being asked their opinions, and Medair observed that this contributed to restoring their dignity,” states the report, which was commissioned by the Humanitarian Practice Network and the Overseas Development Institute (ODI).[61]

Medair is also a member of the global Integral Alliance, a network that is committed to increasing the capacity and quality of a united disaster response among partnering humanitarian organisations.[62]

Medair is also a member of EU-CORD, a network of European Christian humanitarian organizations that work cooperatively.[63] Medair’s office in Switzerland has also received the ZEWO seal of approval. ZEWO is a Swiss label that identifies non-profit organizations which spend funds responsibly.[64]


  1. ^ Medair. “Mission”. Retrieved June 26, 2013.
  2. ^ Medair. “Mission”, Retrieved June 26, 2013.
  3. ^ Medair. “About Us”, Retrieved June 26, 2013.
  4. ^ (French) Registre du Commerce, “Medair”. Retrieved November 30, 2010.
  5. ^ Medair Annual Report 2012
  6. ^ International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. “The Code of Conduct”. Retrieved November 28, 2010.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g Medair Annual Report 2016 [1]. Retrieved July 4, 2017
  8. ^ (French) Jeunesse en Mission (Youth with a Mission). “Historique 1979–1988. Retrieved November 30, 2010.
  9. ^ a b c d Medair. “Medair: The First Five Years”, 20 October 2009. Retrieved November 30, 2010.
  10. ^ a b c d Volkmar-André, Josianne, trans. Christine Terrasson-Alexander (1996). Bread and Salt: The history of Medair. p. 42.
  11. ^ Medair. “The Path that Leads to Morning”. Retrieved November 30, 2010.
  12. ^ Mission Aviation Fellowship “Who we help”. Retrieved November 28, 2010.
  13. ^ EU-CORD. “Annual Report 2009”, p.6
  14. ^ Medair. “Forged in the Fire”. Retrieved January 30, 2011.
  15. ^ Medair. “Medair’s Leadership”. Retrieved December 3, 2010.
  16. ^ Morrison, James. “Change for the better: Escape the rat race and work with charities”, The Independent, 9 April 2009. Retrieved December 15, 2010.
  17. ^ Lancaster University Management School. “The Times: ‘Study provides tools for relief’”, LUMS News, 28 February 2005. Retrieved December 15, 2010.
  18. ^ Medair. “Jim Ingram Appointed Chief Executive Officer of Medair”. Retrieved August 30, 2011.
  19. ^ Medair. "Leadership". Retrieved June 26, 2013.
  20. ^ Medair. "Annual Report 2012". Retrieved June 26, 2013.
  21. ^ Medair. Annual Report 2009, p.54. Retrieved December 15, 2010
  22. ^ a b Medair. “Work with us”. Retrieved November 28, 2010.
  23. ^ Medair. “The Relief and Rehabilitation Orientation Course (ROC)”. Retrieved December 3, 2010.
  24. ^ Medair. “Emergency Relief”. Retrieved June 26, 2013.
  25. ^ a b c Lee, Andrew C K (2005). “Real Time Evaluation of Medair’s ‘Tsunami Emergency Response’ Programme in Sri Lanka”, p. 8. Retrieved November 20, 2010.
  26. ^ Bushproof. “Rapid drinking water supply for tsunami victims using jetting”, (2005). Retrieved November 26, 2010.
  27. ^ Medair. “Recovery”. Retrieved June 26, 2013.
  28. ^ Medair. “Annual Report 2009”, p.11. Retrieved December 15, 2010.
  29. ^ a b SSMJ. “Profiles of health-related organizations working in South Sudan: Medair and Merlin”, Southern Sudan Medical Journal, Vol. 3 Iss. 3, August 2010. Retrieved November 20, 2010.
  30. ^ a b Mande, John. “Balancing principles and needs: capacity-building in southern Sudan”, Humanitarian Exchange Magazine, Iss. 9, September 2009. Retrieved November 21, 2010.
  31. ^ Medair. “Health and Nutrition”. Retrieved December 9, 2010.
  32. ^ Bartlett LA, Mawji S, Whitehead S, Crouse C, Dalil S, Ionete D, Salama P “Where giving birth is a forecast of death: maternal mortality in four districts of Afghanistan, 1999–2002”, The Lancet, 2005 Mar 5–11;365(9462):864-70. Retrieved November 21, 2010.
  33. ^ a b Hill, Jacqueline C. “Dying to give birth: obstructed labour in the Hindu Kush”, The Obstetrician & Gynaecologist, 2005; 7: 267–270. Retrieved November 21, 2010.
  34. ^ Medair. “Annual Report 2009”, p.22. Retrieved December 15, 2010.
  35. ^ Medair. “Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH)”. Retrieved June 26, 2013.
  36. ^ Rural Water Supply Network. “Mission Report on the Evaluation of Rapid Well Jetting and the Canzee Handpump”. Retrieved November 24, 2010.
  37. ^ Mol, Adriaan, Eric Fewster, Kathryn Osbom. “Ultra-rapid well construction: Sustainability of a semi-household level, post-emergency intervention”, 31st WEDC International Conference, Kampala, Uganda, 2005. Retrieved November 24, 2010.
  38. ^ Medair. Annual Review 2006. p. 15.
  39. ^ Medair. “Shelter & Infrastructure”. Retrieved December 9, 2010.
  40. ^ Leeder, Jessica. “Haiti turns to housing the homeless”, The Globe and Mail, 5 March 2010. Retrieved November 20, 2010.
  41. ^ CTV News Channel. “Hurricane Tomas brings more misery: Emma Le Beau, Medair”, 5 November 2010. Retrieved November 20, 2010.
  42. ^ Medair. “One Year Later: 11,622 Haitians Safely Housed”, 26 November 2010. Retrieved December 9, 2010.
  43. ^ Medair. “Annual Report 2009”, p.8. Retrieved December 15, 2010.
  44. ^ a b Lloyd, Rhiannon. “Hope and reconciliation”, Northwest Wales, 22 April 2008. Retrieved November 21, 2010.
  45. ^ a b Medair. “Annual Report 2009”, p.9. Retrieved December 15, 2010.
  46. ^ Mission East. “Mission East supports Medair in Pakistan”, 23 December 2005. Retrieved November 21, 2010.
  47. ^ Medair. “Medair Closes Uganda Programme”, 2 July 2010. Retrieved December 15, 2010.
  48. ^ FEWS NET. “FEWS NET Newsletter”, No. 4, 11 April 2003. Retrieved November 24, 2010.
  49. ^ Medair. “Annual Report 2009”, pp. 30–31. Retrieved December 15, 2010.
  50. ^ AFRO. “Sudan Suffering From Severe Famine”, 17 April 2009. Retrieved November 24, 2010.
  51. ^ United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. “Sudan: Unsettled prospects for Jonglei State”, ReliefWeb, 11 June 2010. Retrieved November 24, 2010.
  52. ^ Manuel-Logan, Ruth. “Sudan is the ‘Hungriest Place on Earth,’ Children Are Starving”, Politic365, 16 April 2010. Retrieved November 24, 2010.
  53. ^ Medair. "Annual Report 2012" p.11. Retrieved June 26, 2013.
  54. ^ Medair."Thousands More Afghan Families to Receive Assistance in Remote Central Highlands." Retrieved June 26, 2013.
  55. ^ Medair. "Annual Report 2012" p.17. Retrieved June 26, 2013
  56. ^ Medair. "Scores of Typhoon Haiyan Survivors Still Living Under Plastic Sheeting One Year On" [2]. Retrieved May 13, 2015.
  57. ^ Verboom, David. “Medair believed to be first humanitarian aid organization worldwide to achieve ISO 9001:2000”, ISO Management Systems, September–October 2002. Retrieved December 10, 2010.
  58. ^ Verboom, David. “Can ISO 9001:2000 aid the humanitarian aid sector”, ISO Management Systems, September–October 2002. Retrieved December 10, 2010.
  59. ^ Service, A, G. Service. “Medair Sri-Lanka Programme: Pilot Complaints Handling Mechanism”, July 2005. Retrieved November 10, 2010.
  60. ^ Humanitarian Accountability Partnership. “Current Members” Archived 2014-07-14 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved November 8, 2010.
  61. ^ a b Lawday, Andrew. “Accountability: a report card”, Humanitarian Exchange Magazine, Issue 36, December 2006. Retrieved November 10, 2010.
  62. ^ Medair's website [3]. Retrieved January 31, 2014.
  63. ^ EU-CORD. “Members”. Retrieved December 15, 2010.
  64. ^ ZEWO. “Benefits to organizations”. Retrieved December 8, 2010.

External links[edit]