Fighting COVID-19 – at home and worldwide
The pandemic is also a polypandemic, for it is threatening not only health but also economic development, stability and peace worldwide. The poorest of the poor are hardest hit while being the least able to protect themselves.
The pandemic is having a dramatic impact. For example:
- Already fragile health care systems have reached their limits. People are dying from malaria, tuberculosis, AIDS and other treatable diseases because their countries are not getting the necessary drugs.
- The World Bank expects that in 2021 the number of people suffering from hunger will continue to rise and a further 160 million people could slide into extreme poverty.
- So far, 300 million people living in developing countries have lost their jobs – there are no schemes for wages to be paid while they work reduced hours or other forms of support to help them.
- Hundreds of millions of children are not able to attend school.
- The international economic crisis that COVID-19 has caused is leading to financial crises, over-indebtedness and destabilisation – creating a situation which, in many countries, is then posing a threat to security.
COVID-19 itself is having a devastating impact. But there has also been a massive increase in infections such as malaria and tuberculosis and in hunger and poverty. Violence against women is on the rise and more human rights violations are taking place. The situation is dramatic. The key to resolving it is to give people worldwide access to vaccines.
Stopping the spread of the virus
The spread of the coronavirus urgently needs to be slowed down and stopped as quickly as possible, both in Germany and worldwide. Based on current knowledge, this can only be achieved through a comprehensive, global vaccination campaign.
The developing and newly industrialised countries are facing much the same challenges in this regard as we are in Germany. However, many countries, in particular in Africa, lack the means to adopt the necessary measures. The World Health Organization (WHO) is warning that health care systems in African countries in particular will be overwhelmed if the coronavirus continues to spread.
That is why the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) is working to bolster the health infrastructure in developing countries and ensure equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, diagnostics and medicines.
The focus of BMZ activities in this respect is on:
- making very substantial financial contributions to the international platform "Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator" (ACT-A), and the COVAX Facility vaccine pillar which is part of ACT-A;
- strengthening health infrastructure – among other things by deploying rapid-response teams known as German Epidemic Preparedness Teams; and
- assisting with hygiene measures and the training of medical staff, and providing special training in how to detect the virus and treat those who are infected.
Through its Emergency COVID-19 Support Programme, the BMZ is providing more than one billion euros for this work. In fact, the development budget has been adjusted specifically for this purpose, and less urgent programmes have been temporarily postponed.
Detailed information on Germany's efforts to bring about worldwide, fair distribution of COVID-19 vaccines via the COVAX vaccine alliance can be found here.
German Epidemic Preparedness Teams Experts helping to fight the spread of the coronavirus
With its development cooperation support, Germany is helping countries worldwide to identify outbreaks of the disease and to slow down the spread of the virus. As part of these activities, it sends out German Epidemic Preparedness Teams, known as SEEG teams.
The SEEG teams bring together experts from the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine, the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin (Charité University Hospital Berlin), the Friedrich Loeffler Institute (Federal Research Institute for Animal Health), the Robert-Koch Institute and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ). The SEEG teams are deployed on behalf of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), working in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Health and the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture.
The work that the teams' experts do follows a One Health approach and they assist our partner countries in recognising, diagnosing and containing outbreaks of disease that could develop into an epidemic or pandemic at an early stage.
The current COVID-19 pandemic has seen SEEG teams on active assignments in numerous countries, in particular in Africa and Latin America. The teams have focused on building laboratory capacity, providing test kits and lab materials, and offering training and technical advice with regard to handling the outbreak of the disease. For instance, the SEEG seconded to Benin helped to set up diagnostics for COVID-19 in a reference laboratory for haemorrhagic fevers and to deliver in-depth practical training to the lab staff there.
An SEEG team had already helped Benin to cope with an outbreak of Lassa fever in 2018. Another team had helped to set up a diagnostics procedure in Central Africa during the Ebola outbreak there.