March 3rd, 2015 – What began with relief supplies to South Sudan 25 years ago is now an established aid organization with 350 employees in 10 countries. But IAS mission today is the same as then: Helping unreached and underprivileged communities to reach the people who are in most need of help.

25 years has passed since IAS was launched on a New Years Eve, a decision taken by Leif Zetterlund, along with three other families who for some years lived and worked together in South Sudan.

Leif Zetterlund and his family had worked for several years in a government-controlled Juba and had seen the plight of the people. There was Sudan´s Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA) who fought for independence, while the LRA (Lord Resistance Army) was active further south towards the Ugandan border, whose troops kidnapped children and forced them to become soldiers.

The desperation was great and the people lacked basic necessities like water, food and clothes. At the same time many aid agencies left Juba. “Something must be done” said Leif and IAS was launched on New Years Eve 1989, whose acronym originally was short for International Aid Sweden. IAS started to send relief items via Uganda to Yei and Kajo Keji and even back then the organization was driven by the words:

Need, Injustice, and that no one is responding to the calls of the population.

Helping unreached and underprivileged people groups have continued to be the driving force/motivation in IAS work which vision today is to ‘to save lives, promote self-reliance and dignity through human transformation, going beyond relief and development’.

IAS newest program country Niger highlights this fact in particular. Faced with chronic humanitarian needs it is also considered as one of the world’s poorest countries, ranked 187/187 on the 2013 UN Human Development Index.

Operates in ten countries

Today IAS run programs in 10 countries, including both humanitarian and long-term development programs, primarily in the Horn of Africa, East Africa and the Sahel.

– Historically IAS has mainly engaged in short-term humanitarian interventions such as water and food for refugees and internally displaced people. But with the expansion of the organization we have also developed a long-term development work which not only includes people’s right to clean water, but also the right to education for all, including children with disabilities. We have also invested in the development of civil society across all our programmes, including in areas that repeatedly are affected by conflict, drought and famine, says Daniel Zetterlund, CEO of IAS.

Since the start IAS has worked with local staff which has benefitted the organization in many ways, says Daniel.

– IAS has always been a needs-based humanitarian actor driven by presenting actual and tangible results. We are present with our own staff and own equipment. It allows us to control and monitor the entire chain, from project planning to the implementation of the activities. This involve for example identifying the people who are in most need of water and that we as an organization also perform the practical work, such as well drilling. Our local staff with their knowledge and competence are key in order for us to continue to have access to some of the most hard to reach areas of the world.

IAS wants to expand

Daniel stresses that IAS in the future will rest on it´s original foundation and continue to strengthen the quality of its programmes.

– We want to grow and will continue to focus on growth in vulnerable and underserved areas that has needs related to our areas of expertise. Right now we are preparing to launch operations in North Africa and the Middle East where we see a great need to help unreached and underprivileged people groups.

Other initiatives being made is to expand the number of staff at the Head Office in Sweden and in our respective geographical management regions to better meet the needs in the field.

– We will also continue to ensure the quality of our work. An example of this is our membership in the HAP (Humanitarian Accountability Partnership) and People In Aid and our active participation in different coordination mechanisms and networks, says Daniel.

IAS will celebrate its 25th anniversary in Yei, South Sudan, between 24-27 March where both staff, partners and guests will participate.

Did you know:

  • IAS has 350 employees, of which 95% are local.
  • IAS has helped over 6 million people since the start in 1989.
  • The area IAS works in is geographically larger than Europe.
  • IAS so far has drilled over 5 000 wells.
  • IAS since 1990 has received funding from Sida.
  • IAS is one out of ten organisations globally that has the verified compliant status of People in Aid.



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