Gabriela Friedl – a life for disaster relief

Gabriela Friedl has dedicated her life to disaster relief and hydrology. In her capacity as the Copro International expert for water and hygiene, she contributes decisively towards the successful completion of Swiss Solidarity-funded projects in this field.

A native of St. Gallen, Gabriela Friedl studied geology in Bern and initially pursued a career in science. She soon specialized in the field of water quality and resource management, completing research assignments in Romania and Canada. She had always harboured a special interest in humanitarian aid, and twelve years ago, this prompted her to give up her scientific career to go and work for the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit (SHA) and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.

A job-sharing expert

Her first assignment led her to South Sudan for four years, two years of which were spent working in the water sector and two years in mine clearance, where she was responsible for the geographic information system (GIS). Other assignments for various mine clearance organizations in Mozambique, Laos and the Western Sahara followed. Today, she has found the ideal way to combine her various commitments in humanitarian aid with her job working for the Office of the Environment in canton Solothurn: together with Katja Schobert, she has launched a consulting firm and they share the Copro position at Swiss Solidarity. Both women see this as a wonderful opportunity to work flexibly on assignments abroad while maintaining a solid base in Switzerland.

From latrines to drinking water

The post of Copro International’s expert for water and hygiene (Wash) was created in 2013. The «Jeder Rappen zählt» (every penny counts) fundraiser for clean drinking water led to an influx of water projects submitted to Swiss Solidarity, which resulted in construction expert Marina Marinov no longer being able to oversee the applications in this area.

Her Copro debut saw Gabriela Friedl encountering a surge of different cultures and approaches. Challenging issues such as latrines, treating saline groundwater to make it potable and the use of fog collectors in Guatemala allowed her to contribute her professional knowledge and experience in this field. One of the things she values particularly about her work with the Project Committee is the opportunity to approach projects from a solution-oriented angle: “We always aim to get the best possible result from each project.”