Sie verwenden einen veralteten Browser. Bitte aktualisieren Sie Ihren Browser, um Ihre Erfahrung und Sicherheit zu verbessern.

SolidarMed over the course of time

SolidarMed has always been a child of its time. The first annual reports show our origins as a Catholic organisation in the 1920s. Since then, SolidarMed has undergone many transformations into the modern non-governmental organisation it is today. What has remained unchanged is our commitment to solidarity.

A slide from the SolidarMed archive: treating a patient (Image undated)

On the 28th of November 1926, around 60 clergymen and health professionals met in the Catholic academy in Zurich to found the "Swiss Catholic Association for Missionary Medical Care”. The goal of this association was to counteract the lack of medical care the colonial powers offered the indigenous people under their rule. Soon, the first doctors were sent out to the imperial powers’ most remote colonies. Their postings were for life. With very limited personnel and the most basic equipment, these doctors assisted with births and treated diseases such as malaria, pneumonia and hookworm.

End of the colonial era

In the first decades, including during the Second World War, there was a comparatively constant rhythm in the work of these doctors. The focus was on medical care, with a strong religious element. With the end of colonial rule and in the post-war period, a reorientation took place. Missions became fully-fledged local churches. These continued running what had been the mission hospitals. From the 1960s onwards, the experts sent by the association were increasingly no longer sent out as missionary doctors for life, but were rather recruited and sent out for two to three years under contract.

«An organisation like SolidarMed never stops learning. We combine the latest findings with our many years of experience.»

Jochen Ehmer, Executive Director of SolidarMed

A new self-image as partner

The focus was increasingly on sustainable support rather than welfare. The term "development aid” was used more and more frequently. This meant not simply sending out doctors, but rather building up lasting infrastructure in neglected areas and establishing relationships of cooperation at eye level with local partners. Such a programme-oriented approach is more resource intensive and meant that the organisation had to concentrate on a few African countries. This process of upheaval and self-reflection in a post-colonial world ultimately led to the association renaming itself in 1987 as "SolidarMed - Christian Service for Medical Cooperation". The focus now lay on cooperation based on partnership.

Tanzania. Glas slides from SolidarMed's beginnings.

A Swiss nun gives anatomy lessons for local staff in Ifakara, Tanzania. Image undated.

A slide from the SolidarMed archive: treating a patient (Image undated)

Outpatient care. Coloured glas slide from SolidarMed's beginnings. Image undated.

Helping people to help themselves

At the beginning of the 1980s, the office in Lucerne consisted of one person. By 1999, this had risen to five employees. In the new millennium, the team continued to grow, allowing for greater central coordination and a holistic, programmatic and evidence-based approach. In 2008, SolidarMed adopted a strategy to match. It emphasises the strengthening of health systems at district and village level. Since then, sustainable support and "help for self-help" have been at the core of our programmes and the medical work is anchored in a larger context. In 2009, SolidarMed adopted a non-denominational mission statement and has since been known as the "Swiss Organisation for Health in Africa".

Partnerships for Health

What had been a Catholic association for Swiss missionary doctors has become a professional and multicultural organization for international cooperation. Our conviction that all people are entitled to decent health care has remained unchanged.