Medair Logo.png
Type Humanitarian Aid
Founded 1989
Location Switzerland
Area served 7 countries
Focus Emergency Relief and Rehabilitation
Motto Medair brings life-saving relief and rehabilitation in disasters, conflict areas, and other crises by working alongside the most vulnerable.

Medair is an international non-governmental organization NGO of humanitarian aid with a stated mission, "to seek out and serve the most vulnerable people affected by crises."[1] Medair’s core competencies are emergency relief and rehabilitation.[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 based in Switzerland. In 22 years, Medair has been active in 27 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]

Medair has approximately 1,100 employees worldwide, many with years of humanitarian experience.[7] Medair’s annual operating income in 2010 was USD 42.1 million.[8] Its programs served 2.2 million beneficiaries in 2010.[9]

The organization currently has programs running in Sudan, South Sudan, Haiti, Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Afghanistan, Somalia/Somaliland, and Zimbabwe. Recent programs have been run in Albania, Angola, Armenia, Bangladesh, Chad, Chechnya, India, Indonesia, Ingushetia, Iraq, Iran, Kenya, Kosovo, Liberia, Mozambique, Ossetia, Rwanda, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Uganda, and Zimbabwe.



First Operation

In 1988, a small group of eight volunteers, led by Drs. Erik and Josianne Volkmar, 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.[10] This first project provided support for displaced people as they resettled into towns that lacked essential services.[11]

The First Years: 1989–2003

Upon their return to Switzerland in 1989, Medair was registered as a not-for-profit organization.[11] In 1990, members of this original group conducted an assessment for a second project in Akobo, Sudan.[12] From 1991 to 1992, Medair’s Sudan program established medical care, safe water supply, food, and agricultural assistance for internally displaced persons.[11]

By 1991, Medair was running 3 programs at the same time in Sudan, Liberia, and Iraq.[11] 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.[13]

Throughout 1994 and 1995, Medair underwent major restructuring and became independent of its three founding organizations.[12] Medair continues to partner with MAF to this day,[14] since many of Medair’s activities require traveling to hard-to-reach places.[15] The independent Medair formed with an International Board of Trustees and an Executive Committee to assist the CEO.[12] In 2003, Erik Volkmar, who had been with the organization since its inception, stepped down after 15 years as CEO.[16]

New Leader: 2004–present

In 2004, Randall Zindler, a graduate of Lancaster University’s MBA program, became CEO.[17] Zindler had held a number of corporate positions with companies like Credit Suisse and Swissair before becoming CEO of Medair.[18]

In his first year as CEO, Zindler mobilized Medair’s response to the Asian tsunami.[19] Over the following few years, Medair developed a long-term vision and, following a major organizational review, clarified its identity as: “we bring life-saving relief and rehabilitation in disasters, conflict areas, and other crises by working alongside the most vulnerable.”[16]

In 2010, Randall Zindler began a transitional plan for his departure from Medair, leaving officially in January 2011. In 2011, Medair's Board of Trustees appointed Jim Ingram, Medair's Finance Director as the new CEO of Medair.[20]

Organizational Structure

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 5 affiliate offices in Germany, the USA, France, the UK, the Netherlands. 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

According to its website, Medair recruits experienced and new relief workers with expertise in project management, health services, nutrition, water, human resources, logistics, 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]

In an interview with The Guardian, Claire Skinner, a manager of Medair’s food aid project in Afghanistan, spoke about her experiences working for Medair. She acknowledged a range of challenges, from the isolation to the logistics of bringing in tools and supplies by donkey, but she is quoted as saying, “I love the rugged terrain and knowing we are helping some of the poorest communities in the country.”[23]

Prospective Medair staff participate in a Relief and Rehabilitation Orientation Course (ROC). This eight-day course takes place three times a year and aims to evaluate and train participants before they go to the field.[24]


Funding for Medair programs come from a combination of sources. The majority (71% in 2010)[25] comes from governmental support such as ECHO, USAID, the SDC, Swiss Solidarity, and United Nations funding, such as UNICEF.[26] The remainder comes from private donors, foundations, NGO partnerships, and gifts-in-kind. In 2010, Medair spent 87.6% of its global consolidated funds on humanitarian aid.[25]


Medair responds to crises with emergency relief and rehabilitation programs that focus on: health and nutrition; water, sanitation, and hygiene promotion (WASH); and shelter and infrastructure.[27]

Emergency Relief

Medair’s stated goal with emergency relief is to mobilize swiftly in response to natural disasters, conflicts, and crises.[28] For example, after the 2004 Asian tsunami, staff were operational in the district of Ampara, the hardest hit area of Sri Lanka, within five days.[29] After a rapid needs assessment, Medair established that the priorities were water, sanitation, food, and shelter.[29] Working with Bushproof, a company specializing in water technologies for difficult environments, Medair secured emergency drinking water supplies for people living in displacement camps.[30]

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.[29]


Medair runs rehabilitation programs in communities recovering from crises to help provide essential services, boost local capacity, and prevent further crises.[31] These operations often focus on improving the capacity of the community to meet its own needs, with Medair providing strategic coaching, planning, organizing, and financial support.[32]

Medair’s health services programs in South Sudan have been noted for their role in building local capacity.[33] Working with local institutions and traditional authorities, Medair invests in the education and training of community health workers and traditional birth attendants.[34] 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.[33] Sudanese doctors have participated directly in WASH programs.[34]

Health and Nutrition

Medair’s health and nutrition sector focus on responding to the greatest unmet medical needs, from the establishment or support of health clinics to nutrition programs and vaccination campaigns.[35] 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).[36]

In 2003, Medair helped develop the first emergency obstetric care facility in the area.[37] 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.[38] Medair also ran a safe motherhood program that focused on community midwifery training.[37]

Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH)

Medair’s WASH programs focus on improving access to safe drinking water, latrine construction, and hand-washing and hygiene promotion.[39] 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.[40] The initially skeptical local residents quickly became impressed by Medair’s work, and started calling the Medair team, NGO “No Bla-bla.”[41] 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.[42]

Shelter and Infrastructure

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.[43] In 2010, after the Haiti earthquake, Medair provided transitional shelters to people without housing in Jacmel and the surrounding area.[44] 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.[45] In January 2011, Medair reported that 11,622 people had now been housed.[46]

Other Notable Projects


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.[47] Medair worked to get medical centers running again and provided reconciliation seminars.[12] Medair brought in psychiatrists to provide trauma counseling for both Hutus and Tutsis.[48] Workshops brought together mixed ethnic groups to share their stories.[48]


After a massive earthquake in Pakistan in 2005, Medair teams focused on distributing shelter kits, as winter was approaching.[49] Once families had completed the construction of their semi-permanent homes, they received a wood stove, mattresses, blankets, and hygienic supplies.[50] Medair’s rehabilitation program included livestock and seed distribution, and reconstruction work in a remote mountainous region.[49]


Medair spent over a decade in Uganda, from 1999 to 2010, making it one of Medair’s longest running programs.[51] 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.[52] Later, Medair helped these people resettle into their villages of origin.[53]

South Sudan

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.[54] 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.[55] Both organizations responded quickly with a therapeutic feeding program.[56]

Affiliations, Accreditations, Partnerships

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 EU-CORD, a network of European Christian humanitarian organizations that work cooperatively.[62] 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.[63]


  1. ^ Medair. “Who we are”. Retrieved November 26, 2010.
  2. ^ Medair. “Annual Review 2008”, pp.10–11. Retrieved December 15, 2010.
  3. ^ Medair. “Annual Review 2007”, p.7. Retrieved December 15, 2010.
  4. ^ (French) Registre du Commerce, “Medair”. Retrieved November 30, 2010.
  5. ^ Medair. “Annual Report 2009”, p.5. Retrieved December 15, 2010
  6. ^ International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. “The Code of Conduct”. Retrieved November 28, 2010.
  7. ^ Medair. “Annual Report 2010”, p.4. Retrieved August 30, 2011
  8. ^ Medair. “Annual Report 2010”, p.5. Retrieved August 30, 2011
  9. ^ Medair. “Annual Report 2010”, p.4. Retrieved August 30, 2011
  10. ^ (French) Jeunesse en Mission (Youth with a Mission). “Historique 1979–1988. Retrieved November 30, 2010.
  11. ^ a b c d Medair. “Medair: The First Five Years”, 20 October 2009. Retrieved November 30, 2010.
  12. ^ a b c d Volkmar-Andre, Josianne, trans. Christine Terrasson-Alexander (1996). Bread and Salt: The history of Medair. p. 42.
  13. ^ Medair. “The Path that Leads to Morning”. Retrieved November 30, 2010.
  14. ^ Mission Aviation Fellowship “Who we help”. Retrieved November 28, 2010.
  15. ^ EU-CORD. “Annual Report 2009”, p.6
  16. ^ a b Medair. “Forged in the Fire”. Retrieved January 30, 2011.
  17. ^ Medair. “Medair’s Leadership”. Retrieved December 3, 2010.
  18. ^ Morrison, James. “Change for the better: Escape the rat race and work with charities”, The Independent, 9 April 2009. Retrieved December 15, 2010.
  19. ^ Lancaster University Management School. “The Times: ‘Study provides tools for relief’”, LUMS News, 28 February 2005. Retrieved December 15, 2010.
  20. ^ Medair. “Jim Ingram Appointed Chief Executive Officer of Medair”. Retrieved August 30, 2011.
  21. ^ Medair. Annual Report 2009, p.54. Retrieved December 15, 2010
  22. ^ a b Medair. “Work with us”. Retrieved November 28, 2010.
  23. ^ King, Mark. “Working overseas-just how dangerous can it be?”, The Guardian, 31 July 2010. Retrieved November 15, 2010.
  24. ^ Medair. “The Relief and Rehabilitation Orientation Course (ROC)”. Retrieved December 3, 2010.
  25. ^ a b Medair. Annual Report 2010, p.51. Retrieved August 30, 2011
  26. ^ Medair. “Funding & Corporate Partners 2010”. Retrieved December 10, 2010.
  27. ^ Medair. “What we do”. Retrieved December 9, 2010.
  28. ^ Medair. “Emergency Relief”. Retrieved December 9, 2010.
  29. ^ 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.
  30. ^ Bushproof. “Rapid drinking water supply for tsunami victims using jetting”, (2005). Retrieved November 26, 2010.
  31. ^ Medair. “Rehabilitation”. Retrieved December 9, 2010.
  32. ^ Medair. “Annual Report 2009”, p.11. Retrieved December 15, 2010.
  33. ^ 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.
  34. ^ a b Mande, John. “Balancing principles and needs: capacity-building in southern Sudan”, Humanitarian Exchange Magazine, Iss. 9, September 2009. Retrieved November 21, 2010.
  35. ^ Medair. “Health Services”. Retrieved December 9, 2010.
  36. ^ 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.
  37. ^ 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.
  38. ^ Medair. “Annual Report 2009”, p.22. Retrieved December 15, 2010.
  39. ^ Medair. “Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH)”. Retrieved December 9, 2010.
  40. ^ Rural Water Supply Network. “Mission Report on the Evaluation of Rapid Well Jetting and the Canzee Handpump”. Retrieved November 24, 2010.
  41. ^ 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.
  42. ^ Medair. Annual Review 2006. p. 15.
  43. ^ Medair. “Shelter & Infrastructure”. Retrieved December 9, 2010.
  44. ^ Leeder, Jessica. “Haiti turns to housing the homeless”, The Globe and Mail, 5 March 2010. Retrieved November 20, 2010.
  45. ^ CTV News Channel. “Hurricane Tomas brings more misery: Emma Le Beau, Medair”, 5 November 2010. Retrieved November 20, 2010.
  46. ^ Medair. “One Year Later: 11,622 Haitians Safely Housed”, 26 November 2010. Retrieved December 9, 2010.
  47. ^ Medair. “Annual Report 2009”, p.8. Retrieved December 15, 2010.
  48. ^ a b Lloyd, Rhiannon. “Hope and reconciliation”, Northwest Wales, 22 April 2008. Retrieved November 21, 2010.
  49. ^ a b Medair. “Annual Report 2009”, p.9. Retrieved December 15, 2010.
  50. ^ Mission East. “Mission East supports Medair in Pakistan”, 23 December 2005. Retrieved November 21, 2010.
  51. ^ Medair. “Medair Closes Uganda Programme”, 2 July 2010. Retrieved December 15, 2010.
  52. ^ FEWS NET. “FEWS NET Newsletter”, No. 4, 11 April 2003. Retrieved November 24, 2010.
  53. ^ Medair. “Annual Report 2009”, pp. 30–31. Retrieved December 15, 2010.
  54. ^ AFRO. “Sudan Suffering From Severe Famine”, 17 April 2009. Retrieved November 24, 2010.
  55. ^ United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. “Sudan: Unsettled prospects for Jonglei State”, ReliefWeb, 11 June 2010. Retrieved November 24, 2010.
  56. ^ Manuel-Logan, Ruth. “Sudan is the ‘Hungriest Place on Earth,’ Children Are Starving”, Politic365, 16 April 2010. Retrieved November 24, 2010.
  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”. 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. ^ EU-CORD. “Members”. Retrieved December 15, 2010.
  63. ^ ZEWO. “Benefits to organizations”. Retrieved December 8, 2010.

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