Health – a human right

German activities for health

A patient's data is recorded at the University Hospital in Accra, Ghana.

If we fail to improve health care for the population of the poorest countries, the Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda will not be achieved. Improving people’s health is thus one of the most important tasks of international and German development cooperation.

The Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) is committed to the systematic implementation of all human rights. Realising the human right to health and social protection, promoting gender equality and advancing the rights of people with disabilities are central objectives of all health programmes pursued by Germany in the field of development cooperation.

Germany is taking responsibility

Toddler on a scale in a Bolivian mountain village

Germany is the world’s third largest donor in the health sector (after the USA and the United Kingdom). The German government has more than trebled its spending on health sector support since 2002. In total, annual support has risen over the last ten years to more than one billion euros. Some of this spending is bilateral and some multilateral. In 2016, for instance, approximately 552 million euros were allocated to bilateral and 482 million euros to multilateral cooperation on health.

There are now bilateral health programmes in 26 of Germany’s partner countries in bilateral cooperation, with a regional focus on sub-Saharan Africa. In eleven partner countries health is one of the agreed priority areas of German development cooperation: Cambodia, Kirgizstan, Nepal, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Burundi, Kenya, Malawi, South Africa, Tanzania and Guinea, while in fifteen countries health programmes are supported outside the bilateral priority areas: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Ethiopia, Cameroon, Niger, Zambia, Togo, Sri Lanka, Moldova, Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Somalia.

The German government also seeks to advance the development and health-sector policies of the World Bank, regional development banks, UN organisations and the European Union. And Germany works closely with partners from civil society, academia, research and business in order to bring together as much expertise and financial power as possible.

Marshall Plan with Africa

Consultation about contraceptives in a health centre in Bujumbura, Burundi.

In regional terms, Germany has decided to focus its development cooperation in the health sector on sub-Saharan Africa. Health care is one of the issues addressed in the Marshall Plan with Africa, which the BMZ initiated in 2017. The plan sets out the scaling up of BMZ initiatives on the training of health professionals, on maternal health and on family planning. One of the points covered here is the need to ensure early and universal sex education.

A further objective is to build more partnerships between health facilities in Germany and the partner countries.

International cooperation of scientists in the field of virus research, funded by German development cooperation, Nairobi, Kenya


German development policy in the health sector is aligned to four strategic goals:

To achieve these strategic goals, Germany’s development policy efforts focus on three interlinked fields of health: health services, health financing and governance.

Health services

Central to German development cooperation in the health sector is the imperative that everyone should be able to use services that promote health, prevent and treat illnesses, provide rehabilitation and, in the case of incurable diseases, deliver palliative care.

Germany is committed in particular to health systems strengthening. To build this capacity, the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) promotes investment in properly equipped health facilities and in the training of health professionals. The BMZ also helps its partner countries to build local pharmaceutical production capacity, enabling them to manufacture for themselves quality medicines that are affordable.

Among the BMZ’s priority issues are sex education for young people, care services for mothers and newborns, HIV prevention and the establishment of effective crisis response mechanisms designed to spot and contain health crises at an early stage.

Computer monitor showing X-rays taken with a computed tomography scanner

A special focus is the introduction of digital solutions. Modern information and communication technologies make it possible to record, process and share health data that can help tailor health care services to a population’s needs and reach target groups.

For details on the above approaches being adopted by Germany in its development cooperation, go to the following issues:

Health financing

Mother and child in a children's hospital in Eritrea

Germany is helping the governments of its partner countries to mobilise more domestic financial resources for health care and to build social protection systems based on the principle of solidarity. Tax reform, for instance, can be a useful step here. Germany also advises governments interested in introducing innovative financing models for the health sector. These might include voucher schemes or savings funds. In this context, Germany is especially concerned that poor and disadvantaged sections of society be protected.


Germany is actively committed within the international community and in its cooperation with its partner countries to achieving universal health coverage (UHC). The German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) supports the governments of its partner countries in taking on leadership and responsibility for strong and efficient health systems and in harnessing the contribution of actors from the private sector and civil society.

In order to promote discussion of experiences, risks and opportunities at the highest level, Germany is an active member of the most important multilateral organisations, networks and platforms. These include: the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (Global Fund); Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance; the Joint United Nation Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS); and the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. In close consultation with Germany’s Federal Ministry of Health (BMG), the BMZ also supports the World Health Organization (WHO) in its coordinating role.

Initiatives at international level

During its G8 Presidency in 2007 Germany, together with France, initiated the Providing for Health Initiative (P4H). It supports partner countries in elaborating sustainable and equitable methods of financing health systems.

It was also in 2007 that Germany became a founding member of the International Health Partnership Initiative (IHP+). This initiative evolved later, in 2016, into a new platform called UHC2030 (International Health Partnership for Universal Health Coverage 2030). It aims to advance efforts to achieve the health-related development goals set out in the 2030 Agenda and to further improve aid effectiveness.

In connection with the 2015 UN Sustainable Development Summit on implementation of the 2030 Agenda, Germany and WHO launched a global initiative called "Healthy Systems – Healthy Lives". Intended to make strong and effective health systems a key focus of international health policy, the initiative produced a key strategy paper in 2017 entitled "Healthy systems for universal health coverage – a joint vision for healthy lives". The UHC2030 health partnership is contributing to the roll-out of this strategy.

Germany also played a key role in the international community’s adoption of a global strategy to improve research into neglected diseases.

In the context of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement), Germany is supporting the local production of drugs and medicines in developing countries.

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