With our international engagement we are making an important contribution to security in regions of crisis and we support the security efforts of the international community. International operations are also in the interest of Switzerland as they enable us to gain experience in the field, to work with genuine samples and foster international networking. Our engagement is voluntary. Staff expenditure depends on the requirements of the international organisations and our internal capacities.
Green Star Award of UNEP
The UN has repeatedly called us in as recognised specialist institute of a neutral state for environmental missions in politically sensitive regions of conflict. For this we were awarded the ‘Green Star’ of the UN in 2009. This prize gives credit to works, organisations, individuals or governments that champion sustainability, promote global responsibility and carry out operations in the event of environmental destruction and disasters.
Examples of operations over the past years:
2015: Operation with the European Mobile Laboratory to overcome the Ebola outbreak in Guinea
In 2014 and in 2015, a scientific advisor from the Biology Division was deployed to the European Mobile Lab in Guéckédou in Guinea and screened patient samples for Ebola viruses with molecular diagnostics. Reliable diagnoses could be obtained rapidly by on-site analysis. They are basic for taking measures to deal with the situation.
2013: Development project in the Democratic Republic of Congo
In the Democratic Republic of Congo a development programme supported by UNICEF has been running since 2006 under the designation of ‘Villages et Ecoles assainis’. The objective of this programme is to improve the supply of drinking water, hygiene and waste water disposal in both rural villages and municipal areas. Two staff members of Spiez Laboratory collected and analysed samples for UNEP and UNICEF from 25 May to 10 June 2013 to assess the quality of drinking water. Especially in the southern mining areas contamination of ground water with heavy metals due to intensive mining activities cannot be ruled out.
2012: UNEP/OCHA Mission Brazzaville, Congo, in collaboration with the Swiss Humanitarian Aid unit and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDA)
From 13 to 20 March 2012, Spiez Laboratory gave support to the Joint Environment Unit of UNEP/OCHA after the explosion accident in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo. On 4 March 2012, several tons of high explosives and ammunition from old stockpiles had detonated. The purpose of the mission was making a preliminary assessment of the explosion’s environmental impact. For this purpose it was planned to take samples from the site of the explosion, the immediate vicinity and from unpolluted earth and water locations. The samples were pooled, analysed and packed in the town. Some of the samples were sent to Switzerland for detailed analysis. The examination was aimed at obtaining information on distribution and concentration of heavy metals and blasting agent residues that might have a toxic effect on humans and the environment.
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