Red Cross to Send ISK 25 Million to Aid Ebola Relief Effort

red cross iceland

The Icelandic Red Cross will be making a donation of ISK 25 million ($200,000/€178,000) to aid Ebola outbreak relief services in East Africa, RÚV reports. Ebola resurfaced in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in May 2018 and 2,000 people have been diagnosed with the disease since then, 1,300 of whom have died.

Halting the spread of the Ebola epidemic is of the utmost importance, says Atli Viðar Thorstensen, the project manager of Humanitarian Operations for the Red Cross in Iceland. According to a press release on the Red Cross website, Iceland is collaborating closely with Uganda in its efforts to combat Ebola. The country has been involved in extensive relief efforts aiding refugees from South Sudan and DRC who are fleeing to Uganda in the wake of the Ebola outbreak. Uganda is now sheltering nearly two million refugees and desperately needs help from the international community to continue in its efforts.

“Now, when it’s clear that Ebola has made its way across Uganda’s borders, it’s obvious that even more support is needed and it’s to everyone’s benefit to impede the spread of Ebola, because we don’t want it to spread to other neighboring countries or even across continents,” Atli remarked in the press release. “In collaboration with the World Health Organization, Uganda’s government is initiating vaccinations in regions where there it’s feared that the virus could spread. The government’s focus on impeding the spread of Ebola and eliminating it is fully in keeping with the Red Cross’s work.”

The Icelandic Red Cross’ current contribution to Ebola relief efforts is supported in part by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and builds on top of previous donations that the organisation has made to the cause. In 2018, the Icelandic Red Cross sent ISK 28 million ($220,000/€198,000), bringing Iceland’s total donation to the effort to ISK 70 million ($558,000/€495,ooo).

Green Tax Would Encourage Recycling

A proposed “green tax” would make it more expensive for landfills in Iceland to bury garbage than to recycle, Vísir reports. The landfilling of waste is currently responsible for 7% of Iceland’s overall greenhouse emissions.

Minister of the Environment and Resources Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson says there are currently two kinds of green incentives on the table. One of these is to levy a tax on landfilling waste. The other is to tax the gas used in the refrigeration machinery associated with the landfilling process. Guðmundur Ingi says that this gas is responsible for around 7% of Iceland’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Green taxes such as these are intended to encourage individuals and businesses to adopt more environmentally friendly behaviours and also increase recycling around the country. Guðmundur hopes that a green tax will help to reduce Iceland’s greenhouse emissions and thereby reduce the country’s overall climate impact.

“These are, in my opinion, very important environmental initiatives…by landfilling, we’re creating far too many greenhouse emissions, but with these taxes, it will be more expensive to landfill and more competitive to recycle,” he concluded.

The green tax was one of the financial policy proposals discussed in parliament on Thursday. It’s hoped that it will be implemented in phases in the next year.

Horse Illness Linked to Feed

Forty-four horses in Iceland have been diagnosed with symptoms of acquired equine polyneuropathy (AEP), RÚV reports. Although the disease, also known as Scandinavian knuckling syndrome, is common in other Nordic countries, this is the first time it has been diagnosed in Iceland. Veterinarians with the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST) have determined that horses have contracted the disease from their feed.

AEP is a “…neurological disease characterised by pelvic limb knuckling.” Such muscle deterioration in horses’ hind quarters gives them an abnormal “sidewinder” gait. According to Sigríður Björnsdóttir, a veterinarian who specialises in equine diseases at MAST, the disease mostly effects younger horses, and, although it can be fatal, she says the survival rate for diagnosed animals is good: about 70% make a full recovery.

Of the 44 horses that have been diagnosed with AEP in Iceland, 12 have had to be euthanised and one was found dead. Sigríður says that the disease has been linked to hay and feed that the diagnosed horses consumed. What precisely in the hay is causing the disease is unknown, but researchers have identified a specific kind of hay that is the problem and have ensured that it will not be fed to any more horses.

Other than immediately changing horses’ feed, there is little that can be done to hasten the diagnosed animals’ recovery except to ensure that they don’t suffer any extra stresses, as this can make the symptoms worse.

Puppeteer Named Reykjavík Resident of the Year

Puppeteer Helga Steffensen was named Reykjavík Resident of the Year on Thursday, RÚV reports. Every year, the mayor invites guests of honour to open the fishing season with him at the Elliðaár river on the east side of Reykjavík. The first person to catch a salmon during the excursion is then named the honorary citizen of the year.

Helga caught a male salmon of around seven or eight pounds; it only took her 15 minutes catch the fish and reel it in. Heiða runs the Brúðubíllinn, or “Puppet Car,” which puts on free puppet shows for children each summer. Helga has been running the roving puppet theatre for 39 years, and has put on over 60 plays in that time.

“This is really cool and I’m very proud,” remarked Helga after catching her fish. When asked what stood out to her about her decades of work as a puppeteer, she was quick to answer. “It’s the kids. I’m right there with our youngest citizens from cradle to pram. I’m always working to make them happy,” she said. Helga said that this summer had been particularly fun for her, as the weather has been so good.

This is the ninth year that the title of Reykjavík Resident of the Year has been given out. Last year’s honouree was Bergþór Grétar Böðvarsson, who runs the grassroots organization called FC Sækó (FC Psycho) that aims to improve people’s mental health through football.

See the Puppet Car’s summer schedule here.