In memorial of Meinrad Studer

TDR news item
23 January 2013

The son of a family of Swiss doctors who was squeamish about blood, the husband of a Malaysian national who met him while both were working in the refugee camps at the Cambodia/Thailand border, the father of three daughters who have studied law and the environment . These are views that help illustrate the rich background and picture of Meinrad Studer, TDR’s External Relations Officer who unexpectedly died on a ski slope 20 January at the age of 57.

Meinrad Studer
Meinrad Studer

It was 1979 when a young Swiss man took his first job as an integration officer and teacher to help Indochinese refugees in Mon-tet/Fribourg learn how to adapt in this far away country from their home – what he called an orientation to the language and culture. Through this experience, Meinrad strengthened his appreciation of the needs of the vulnerable, and went on to work for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in crisis regions in Asia, the Near East and Africa. It was a challenge for him to break tradition with a family history of doctors (he was the first male child in a traditional family where his father expected him to carry on the profession). But he shared the concept of service that he took with him on a long journey of humanitarian work.

It was on his first field assignment in the early 1980s to service the refugee camps at the Cambodia/Thailand border that he met his future wife, Foo Wah, affectionately called Fifi, who was working for UN agencies in the camps. Meinrad went on to assignments in Lebanon and then in South Africa during the apartheid regime to open access to non-whites to the Red Cross services and organization. He spent 4 years in south Asia – a highlight of his time there was the audience with the King of Bhutan. He succeeded in initiating ICRC activities in that country, and decades after his return from Asia, he was thrilled to get an invitation to the royal wedding of the fifth king of Bhutan.

Meinrad came back to Switzerland in 1994 to work at the ICRC headquarters in Geneva. He then moved to the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) in 2002 where he worked as a senior advisor on key humanitarian policy documents and managing donor programmes and projects with many organisations, including the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the UN office for Disaster Risk Reduction and UN's refugee agency, UNHCR. He was assigned by SDC to help establish the Global Humanitarian Forum under the guidance of Kofi Annan, President of the Forum, where the focus was on the humanitarian consequences of climate change.

Meinrad joined TDR in 2009, where he maintained strong ties with donors and was instrumental in supporting the TDR alumni application that resulted in winning the Gates Global Health Award in 2011. He was known for his warmth, kindness and sense of optimism, celebrating the value of people and the strength of teams to move forward in any situation.

Our deepest condolences go to his family, his wife and daughters.

For more information, please contact:

GUTH, Ms Jamie Ann
Communications Manager
Telephone: +41 22 79 11538
E-mail: guthj@who.int

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