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World Health Day: Germany’s commitment to a fairer, healthier world

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, how does German Development Cooperation support access to health worldwide?

COVID-19 has made it clear that some people are able to live healthier lives and have better access to health services than others, entirely due to where they are born, grow up, live, work and age. This must change. On the occasion of World Health Day 2021, Healthy DEvelopments takes a closer look at Germany’s contribution to a fairer, healthier world.

Inequalities impact directly on individuals’ health and whether they are able to afford the medical care they need, or survive the economic consequences of not being able to earn a living for months at a time. As a proactive member of numerous global health initiatives, Germany contributes to strengthening health policy and practice around the world in order to reduce and end such inequalities.

WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (middle) with Jens Spahn (left), Federal Minister of Health, Germany and Olivier Veran (right), Minister for Solidarity and Health, France, during a meeting for ministers of health in June 2020

How does Germany contribute to improving health equity around the world?

Germany is currently the world’s third-largest contributor to global health, providing more than EUR 1 billion per year to multilateral and bilateral health programmes and initiatives.  In 2018 Germany helped initiate WHO’s Global Action Plan for Health and Well-Being for All (GAP), to accelerate the worldwide efforts to attain SDG 3 by 2030: ‘Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages’.

Germany is a major contributor to the main financing instruments in the health sector including the Global Financing Facility for Women, Children and Adolescents (GFF) and the World Bank Group. Germany also supports UNAIDS, UNFPA and the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), not only with financial resources, but with strategic contributions in steering and advisory committees, through secondments to their head offices and through focal points in partner countries. 

To boost the effectiveness of multilateral instruments, Germany has launched global programmes such as BACKUP Health, which supports countries in accessing and managing Global Fund financing, and, jointly with WHO and others, P4H, a partnership in which countries learn from each other and coordinate partner contributions on their journeys towards Universal Health Coverage.

To combat the COVID-19 pandemic and accelerate equitable access to COVID-19 testing, treatment, and vaccines for all people worldwide, the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) was launched in April 2020. Germany is currently the largest contributor to the ACT-A network and has provided more than EUR 2.1 billion to multilateral organisations that are working through ACT-A. Since the start of the pandemic, Germany has provided more than 200 million EUR for response measures in the health sector. 

Stark Inequalities

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Raju Sarker, a 39-year-old Bangladeshi, moved to Singapore as a migrant worker – but his world turned upside down when he contracted Covid-19 at the beginning of 2020. 

His case was not a mild one.

‘I couldn’t eat anything. I was fed milk through the nose. A pipe was inserted below my throat. I was very scared,’

Raju Sarker

he said. He lost 24kg and spent almost five months in hospital in Singapore – half of the time in intensive care unit.

Raju Sarker, a recovered COVID-19 patient and migrant worker, looks at a photo of his son at the dormitory where he lives in Singapore
Raju Sarker, a recovered COVID-19 patient and migrant worker, looks at a photo of his son at the dormitory where he lives in Singapore

One of the first few migrant workers to have contracted the virus, Raju was followed by thousands of others. By June 2020, low-income migrant workers trapped in packed bunk rooms contaminated with the coronavirus accounted for more than 90% of Singapore’s then 38,000 infections. The pandemic has drawn attention to the stark inequalities in Singapore, where more than 300,000 labourers from Bangladesh, India and China often live in rooms for 12 to 20 men, working jobs that pay as little as S$20 ($14.30) a day

As well as leading to unnecessary suffering and premature deaths, such inequalities also harm societies and economies more broadly. 

Working with the WHO

Germany is a close partner of the World Health Organization (WHO, and is part of a major effort between the European Union (EU) and the WHO Regional Office for Europe to support the deployment of COVID-19 vaccines and vaccination in the six EU Eastern Partnership countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine. The project, funded by the EU, will cover all phases of COVID-19 vaccine deployment and vaccination. 

Covid-19 vaccines arrive in Tbilisi, Georgia via the COVAX mechanism

With a total budget of €40 million over a three-year period, this is the largest EU and WHO joint action ever implemented in the European Region. It will complement ongoing and forthcoming work through global and regional solidarity initiatives, such as the WHO co-led COVAX Facility and the EU sharing mechanism, to ensure access to vaccines in these countries.

Working with the Global Fund

The Global Fund to Fight Poverty-Related Diseases such as AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM) is the world’s biggest financier of AIDS, TB, and malaria prevention, treatment, and care programmes – activities closely linked to the sustainable development goal SDG 3. Today, Germany is the fourth largest government contributor to the GFATM, with EUR 1.15 billion in the 2020-2022 funding period, of which EUR 150 million has been allocated to the COVID-19 Response Mechanism (C19RM). Its investments have helped the Global Fund partnership save more than 32 million lives and reduce deaths from TB, AIDS and malaria, on average, by 40 percent.

Community health workers in Kenya gather outside a local health facility. The community health workers have been fighting malaria in their community – now they are on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19.
Community health workers in Kenya gather outside a local health facility. The community health workers have been fighting malaria in their community – now they are on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19.

To increase the immunization coverage of children in low-income countries, the German government has also been supported Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance with EUR 600 million since 2020.

Together for a fairer and healthier world

For Raju, help came just in time. Together with NGOs, corporate partners and volunteers, the Singaporean government mobilised to help the migrant community, providing medical support, food and daily essential items for more than 300,000 migrant workers. 

‘The doctors worked relentlessly to treat me and the nurses took care of me. Then after four days they suddenly told me that my wife gave birth to our son,’ he explains. ‘With the help of the doctor’s cell phone I saw my son. I was filled with courage and joy. He gave me inspiration and courage to survive.’ Thanks to a concerted effort, Singapore has since kept the community transmission of COVID-19 low. 

Globally, as we mark World Health Day 2021, the WHO calls on leaders to ensure that everyone has living and working conditions that are conducive to good health and to monitor health inequities, in order to make sure that everyone can access quality health services when and wherever they need them. 

Inna Lazareva, April 2021

© WHO / Christopher Black
© WHO / Blink Media – Juliana Tan
© WHO / Country Office Georgia
© Amref Health Africa / Kennedy Musyoka/ Global Fund
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