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12.09.2023

Destruction of infrastructure in Ukraine

Destruction of infrastructure in Ukraine

The destruction of (critical) infrastructure has steadily increased since the Russian invasion in February 2022. As a result of the acts of war, private houses, apartments or publicly accessible infrastructure such as shopping centers, bridges or roads are (un)intentionally damaged time and again. The destruction of the Kakhovka dam near Kherson is a tragic example of the disabling of critical infrastructure.

Much of the destruction and damage to infrastructure takes place near the fronts in the east and southeast of the country. However, areas away from the war zones are also repeatedly hit; in Kiev, for example, missiles struck in June. Russian attacks not only kill people and animals directly, but also damage the respective infrastructure. Moreover, reconstruction is costly and regional authorities cannot always cover all the damage, which is why people are also dependent on aid.

The Kyiv School of Economics calculated that by April 2023, the total amount of direct, documented damage inflicted on Ukrainian infrastructure by the Russian invasion would be $147.5 billion. In the meantime, this amount needs to be raised – and will continue to be raised – in the future. While about one-third of this amount is due to damage to or destruction of homes ($54.4 billion), damage to infrastructure is estimated at one-quarter (about $36.2 billion).

The fact that the destruction of infrastructure can also develop into a global catastrophe in the worst case is illustrated by the attacks on ports along the Danube in southeastern Ukraine. Since August, numerous Russian drone attacks have repeatedly damaged or destroyed the infrastructure of the ports, as it is at these infrastructures that wheat is loaded, which is used for export. The destruction of the wheat has not only resulted in negative losses for Ukraine’s economy, but also poses further challenges for the recipient states.

Green Cross Switzerland’s contribution for the renewed repair of infrastructure.

The destruction of (critical) infrastructure in Ukraine is also a key issue for Green Cross Switzerland. In its work in Ukraine, the foundation focuses on the repair of infrastructure and the delivery of items for everyday life, in addition to the delivery of systems for the purification of drinking water and humanitarian goods. In the spring, a boat engine was provided to the rescuers of the Novhorod-Siverskyj State Service for Emergency Situations. The technical infrastructure helped rescue victims of the floods in the northeast of the country. During the summer, more than 200 children in the Kherson and Mikolayiv regions also received backpacks for everyday school life, and destroyed windows were financed with the support of Green Cross Switzerland. Further assistance is being planned at this time.

The reconstruction of the infrastructures in Ukraine will take several years. Therefore, Green Cross Switzerland has set itself the goal to also help with the reconstruction in the future.

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14.08.2023

News from the project work

News from the project work

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14.08.2023

In focus

In focus

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08.08.2023

International Agent Orange Memorial Day

International Agent Orange Memorial Day

On August 10, the world remembers the victims who were hit and affected by the use of the defoliant “Agent Orange” during the same day of 1961 to 1971. In the midst of the Vietnam War, U.S. troops used the herbicide to uncover hiding places of the North Vietnamese armies, which were protected by the jungle. On the other hand, the highly toxic substance was used to try to destroy crops that could feed army personnel.

Agent Orange unfortunately had an aggressive effect on those affected and on the local environment. The after-effects of its use can still be felt today. Even small amounts of a component of Agent Orange, called tetrachlorodibenzodioxin (TCDD), can lead to cancer, organ damage or malformations in children. Among Vietnamese, exposure to Agent Orange is accordingly believed to be the cause of an unusually high number of miscarriages, skin diseases, cancers, birth defects, and congenital malformations that have occurred since the 1970s.

The Vietnamese Association of Victims of Agent Orange estimates that there are more than three million victims of Agent Orange, and hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese and U.S. military personnel are suffering from the long-term effects of the herbicide. The U.S. has so far made only small contributions to improving the situation; its support is primarily for its own veterans.

To ensure that the consequences for victims of Agent Orange are not forgotten, Vietnam introduced the Agent Orange Memorial Day, which is supported by many NGOs, social institutions or individuals. It is also an opportunity for different communities – from Vietnamese, to American soldiers, to family members of those who lost their lives – to come together to support all those who continue to suffer from the effects of Agent Orange.

Green Cross Switzerland has therefore been committed to the victims of Agent Orange for more than 20 years and tries to alleviate the suffering of those affected. For this reason, Green Cross Switzerland is also committed to Agent Orange Day and would like to commemorate all victims of the defoliant. The commitment to those affected will continue to be an important goal in the work of the foundation.

19.07.2023

Sri Lanka’s fight for waste

Sri Lanka’s fight for waste

Human-caused grievances also affect innocent living beings in particular. In Sri Lanka, large amounts of waste have accumulated in garbage dumps over the years. But because it also cuts into elephant habitats, the mammals inadvertently eat some of the plastic waste, especially single-use plastics. This is because the garbage is freely accessible to many elephants; there are more than 50 open garbage dumps in Sri Lanka. No barriers prevent the animals from seeking food in the dumps.

This consumption has serious consequences for the animals: over five elephants die each year as a result of plastic consumption. This fact could be established by experts based on autopsies of the animals. Elephants are already threatened with extinction in Sri Lanka; about 6,000 wild elephants still live on the island.

In addition, bottles, packaging and bags are blamed for clogging drains and causing flooding in cities, as well as fostering an increase in potentially deadly dengue fever, which is spread by mosquitoes that breed in stagnant water.

 

Protecting elephants by banning single-use plastic

The government of Sri Lanka tried to respond to these facts by banning the production and sale of single-use plastic since June 2023. Already six years ago, the sale of plastic bags made of non-biodegradable plastic was banned. Now it is extended; the sale of e.g. plastic cutlery, cocktail shakers, plastic tableware is now punishable.

Environmentalists doubt whether the laws will help. Attempts to curb waste have been made before, but even then the decrees were largely ignored as manufacturing companies continued to produce certain plastic items.

The economic crisis that began in late 2021 further exacerbated the garbage problem. Garbage began to pile up as garbage trucks lacked fuel.

 

Waste problem also dangerous for people

In this South Asian country of 22 million inhabitants, more than 1.5 million tons of plastic waste are produced every year, half of which ends up in canals, rivers and ultimately in the Indian Ocean. In addition, only three percent of plastic waste is recycled. According to a study by the Center for Environmental Justice, 15% of the waste is single-use plastics (e.g., straws, food wrappers, bags). This large amount of plastic waste and the fact that it is not disposed of properly correlates with the increase in dengue fever cases: from 35,000 cases in 2021 to 77,000 cases in 2022.

The laws are now intended to contribute to the waste problem in the country, so that hopefully no more elephants will have to die additionally and fewer people will be affected by the fever.

 

 

 

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19.07.2023

Review of the project work of Green Cross Switzerland

Review of the project work of Green Cross Switzerland

Since the foundation of Green Cross Switzerland in 1994, project work has had an important position in the self-image of the foundation. The project work was built on and merged with the principles and values of Green Cross Switzerland: Fast and directly effective help for self-help on the ground, which is pragmatically designed, scientifically based and based on mediation with concrete solutions. The foundation has always attached importance to establishing contacts with other partner organizations and companies on the ground, so that the aid and project work could be more firmly anchored regionally. Close cooperation with local companies and organizations became a central feature of the project work and the self-image of Green Cross Switzerland. The focus of the project work quickly began to crystallize after the foundation: Regions affected by man-made disasters.

 

Help for those affected by the nuclear disaster of Chernobyl

As early as 1995, Green Cross Switzerland launched its first projects in the areas affected by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. For this purpose, the foundation introduced the so-called SOCMED program (Social and Medical Care and Education), which had the goal of improving the health of the affected population in the longer term and, at the same time, providing further training and information for care professionals but also for those affected. SOCMED was in charge of all upcoming projects in countries such as Vietnam, Ukraine and Belarus.

Within the framework of this program, therapy camps were carried out in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. In these camps, mainly children and young people with disabilities were cared for and taught by doctors, therapists, teachers and pedagogues. Social activities were also organized to promote creativity, ecological awareness and a sense of community. Family clubs were also established to initiate self-help among mothers. In order for women in particular to lead a more self-determined life, courses or further education were offered that were in line with the family clubs.

 

Outreach to victims of Agent Orange

In Vietnam, too, projects were organized in the 20th century to support victims of the herbicide Agent Orange, which was sprayed during the Vietnam War. Green Cross Switzerland set up an information and prevention program for those affected, but also for the Vietnamese public. In addition, it began to support Vietcot, a training institution for orthopedic technicians founded in 1997, so that children with orthopedic aids could attend schools and training courses on their own.

 

A variety of projects in different countries

The projects and support services described are a fraction of Green Cross Switzerland’s work over the past 20 years. Other projects have been carried out in nation states that were not among the Foundation’s core countries. In Burkina Faso, Green Cross Switzerland worked with the Department of Development and Cooperation (SDC) to help build structures and transfer knowledge about water management to prevent conflicts arising from water scarcity. In Iraq, the Foundation worked with the Society for Threatened Peoples to support mobile teams that provided medical care and counseling to victims of the poison gas attack on the city of Halabja during the first Gulf War by Saddam Hussein’s forces. In Fukushima, Japan, Green Cross Switzerland organized summer camps for children and young people and family clubs where people were informed about radiation exposure from the Fukushima nuclear power plant and everyday activities were carried out for the children. The Foundation was able to gain valuable experience in these countries, which it can use for the future.

The objective of “helping people to help themselves” was always an important premise in all projects. It turned out that sustainable structures could be established on site, which still exist today and are further strengthened by the current project work.

14.07.2023

Fukushima nuclear power plant: radioactive water to be discharged into the sea

Fukushima nuclear power plant: radioactive water to be discharged into the sea

On March 11, 2011, triggered by an earthquake, one of the worst nuclear accidents since the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster occurred at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan. It resulted in a power outage, which in turn was responsible for the cooling systems in each of the reactors failing within a short time of the disaster. The residual heat in the reactor core caused the fuel rods in the reactors to overheat, partially melting and releasing radioactive material (core meltdown).

The released radiation continues to preoccupy the region to this day. This is because the destroyed reactors still must be cooled by water. The contaminated water used mixes with rainwater and groundwater, which seeps in. More than 1.3 million tons of contaminated water are currently stored in about 1000 tanks. Tepco, the company that operates the plant, says it is now running out of space and the tanks are exposed to new potential earthquakes.

 

Contaminated water to be discharged into the sea through filtration

As a solution, Tepco proposed to first filter the contaminated water and then discharge it into the sea. However, the system cannot filter out the radioactive isotope tritium. According to Tepco and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), this would not be a danger because the tritium in small amounts is harmless to humans and the environment and the water is diluted. The concentration is expected to drop sharply. In case the amount of seawater would not be enough for dilution or the concentration would still be high, there would be an emergency valve that would stop the release.

While experts opinion are mixed, the IAEA has inspected construction of the disposal facilities and approved Tepco’s plan. The head of the nuclear agency, Rafael Grossi said that Japan meets international safety standards.

 

Criticism from various parties

In addition to the criticism of some experts, many fishermen in the region are also against Tepco’s planned disposal of the cooling water. They fear a worsening of the situation and would not be able to assess the consequences of the plans. Although they have received compensation payments from the government, they fear new damage to their reputation. In addition, the government has agreed to clarify the discharge of the water with all parties, but the fishermen have not been asked.

In neighboring countries such as China, Japan’s plans have met with rejection. The government of South Korea, which previously criticized Japan’s plans, now respects the IAEA’s findings. The disposal plans are to be launched as early as this summer.

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10.07.2023

Risk potential of the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant, Ukraine

Risk potential of the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant, Ukraine

The Ukrainian nuclear power plant Zaporizhzhya, now occupied by Russia, has repeatedly been the starting point of security debates due to the large-scale invasion of Russian troops in February 2022, which confirmed the danger of a possible explosion, but in its scale was not comparable, for example, with the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

In recent days, the situation at the nuclear plant has been fueled by new rumors that Russian troops were mounting explosive devices at the plant. Officially, however, these rumors could not be confirmed. However, a possible blast is technically difficult to carry out, as the reactor units are fortunately equipped with several thick, fortified walls for protection. Likewise, the nuclear power plant has been shut down in the meantime, which would greatly reduce radiation exposure in the event of a potential attack, such as an explosion, and would probably be regionally limited. However, a risk remains.

At the same time, the ICRC assesses the risk of a radiation leak as high despite safety precautions. It arrives at this assessment because the likelihood of direct or accidental damage to a reactor or other critical components that enable safe operation of the facility, as well as human error by personnel working under increasing stress and strain, would remain.

At the same time, the ICRC estimates that the risk of radiation leakage is high despite safety precautions. It arrives at this assessment because the likelihood of direct or accidental damage to a reactor or other critical components that enable the safe operation of the facility, as well as human error by personnel working under increasing stress and strain, would still exist.

In the event of potential damage to the facility, the surrounding region could be impacted for centuries by radioactive cesium or strontium contaminating the environment. This is because the released material would have an impact on ecosystems, agriculture, food security, and human health, including for generations to come.

Although opinions on the risk of damage may diverge, it can be stated that the danger or possibility of real damage exists.

06.07.2023

Cooperation with DAVA – Focus on Day Care Centers

Cooperation with DAVA – Focus on Day Care Centers

As part of the SOCMED (Social and Medical and Education) program, Green Cross Switzerland has been providing social, medical and educational support to those affected by the defoliant Agent Orange, which was used during the Vietnam War, for over twenty years. The highly toxic herbicide still leaves children and young people physically and psychologically impaired; many are dependent on help. Through its many years of involvement in Vietnam, the foundation has been able to establish a broad network of contacts and build partnerships. One of these partnerships is the Danang Association for Victims of Agent Orange (DAVA).

 

Danang Association for Victims of Agent Orange

The organization advocates for victims of Agent Orange in the central Vietnamese city of Da Nang and its surrounding area by helping those affected cope with everyday life. According to DAVA, there are about 5000 children living in the city and its agglomeration, 1400 of them with the late effects of the herbicide in the form of physical disfigurement, deformities or psychological disorders. Despite the economic upswing in the region, many affected families continue to find themselves in a precarious situation.

 

Day care centers for the reintegration of disabled children and adolescents

DAVA has established two day care centers in the region, which together provide a place for 120 victims of Agent Orange. In the day centers, the children and adolescents receive care, nursing and a daily structure through various activities. Through rehabilitation measures, medical check-ups and balanced meals, the health of the victims can be strengthened in the long term. School basics, painting, sewing, singing, dancing or other sports and play activities help to reduce psychological stress and promote self-confidence. Through the all-day care and supervision of the affected children and adolescents, the parents are relieved, which enables them to pursue a job.

Green Cross Switzerland supports DAVA by covering about 20-30% of the costs. The financial support is of central importance, since the Danang Association for Victims of Agent Orange is financed exclusively by donations and depends on sustainable planning, among other things, to be able to hire sufficient care personnel.

By working with DAVA, Green Cross Switzerland is able to channel its financial assistance to concrete structures to improve the living conditions of victims of Agent Orange and to use the contributions in a targeted manner. We would like to express our sincere gratitude to you, dear donors, for your continued support. Your contribution alleviates the difficult situation of numerous children and young people in Vietnam.

08.06.2023

Dam burst near Kakhovka, Kherson

Dam burst near Kakhovka, Kherson

The destruction of the Ukrainian dam on June 6, 2023, near the Russian-occupied southern village of Kakhovka has far-reaching consequences for the region, the extent of which cannot yet be assessed. The dam is part of a series of six dams along the Dnieper River and the last before opening into the Black Sea. The dam produced electricity, cooled the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant, and provided water for local people.

The destruction caused the floods to reach the city of Kherson, which is located on the delta of the Dnieper River and about 100 kilometers away from the destroyed infrastructure. A total of 24 localities have been affected by the floods. So far, about 3000 people could be evacuated on both sides of the front. Currently, it is roughly estimated that on the right bank of the river, which is controlled by Ukraine, 40,000 people are affected by the floods, while in the Russian-occupied territories on the other side 25,000.

The floods have already caused great damage to the population, infrastructure, nature and animals. The potential consequences from the destruction of the dam will continue to increase. Dropping the water level in the Kakhovksa reservoir to a certain level may mean water shortages for 200,000 people. The laying out of mines along the river may mean that they will now be newly washed into places not expected. Fecal matter or chemicals from factories entering the water can cause epidemics or diseases. Oil was stored in the dam’s power plant, which has now also entered the water, and many fishes have already died from the contaminated water. In addition, habitats of animals such as birds are destroyed. The consequences of the dam burst are therefore manifold, extensive and will unfortunately shape the region for a long time.

While the EU and European countries have already pledged support worth 170 million, about 800 rescuers inside Ukraine and volunteers are providing assistance on the ground. Green Cross Switzerland has been active in Ukraine since 2022 with pragmatic relief actions for the population. In addition to providing water treatment systems to those affected, e.g. in Kherson or Mikolayev, and other assistance, we have supported rescuers of the State Service for Emergency Situations after floods during the spring in the north of Ukraine with a boat engine. Green Cross Switzerland is currently reviewing the possibilities for further assistance to the population affected by the floods in the region around the destroyed reservoir.