The COVID-19 pandemic shows how tightly interconnected we are on a global scale – the virus has been able to jump from continent to continent with remarkable speed. Even the latest variants have not been containable due to the close, global interconnection of countries, transport systems and economies. With healthcare systems reaching their limits and economies stagnating even in industrialised countries, developing countries are struggling with far more serious consequences. This hampers sustainable development and economic progress. Consequently, SDG 3, in which the United Nations strives to “ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages”, is receding ever further into the distance.
The pandemic is currently the biggest challenge facing healthcare systems around the world, but it has not made existing problems go away. More importantly, the heavy burden COVID-19 has placed on healthcare systems has meant that fewer resources are available for achieving progress on other health matters. For example, many laboratories have had to devote their entire capacity to COVID-19 testing, so other illnesses such as tuberculosis are being diagnosed too late or not at all.
COVID-19 has exacerbated poverty worldwide, bringing higher mortality rates, undernourishment and a general increase in vulnerability. Poverty, in turn, heightens the risk of becoming ill – and in many countries, it also means that inadequate treatment or no treatment at all are the only affordable options.
In addition to COVID-19 and other infectious diseases, chronic, non-communicable diseases are also on the rise in developing countries. This is related to changes in dietary and lifestyle habits, increasing life expectancy, and the consequences of climate change. Chronic diseases come at a high economic cost, which is why it is important to strengthen the healthcare systems of developing countries, including in terms of their financial resources.
The pandemic has shown us that human, animal and environmental health are inextricably linked. Thanks to KfW’s concept, this understanding is increasingly being incorporated into the planning and implementation of agricultural, environmental, biodiversity and human health projects.
In 2021 KfW – largely acting on behalf of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) – committed almost EUR 2 billion to projects that help improve health in partner countries. 45 million people will receive health services for the first time or in improved form – and over 38 million from this group alone will be vaccinated, diagnosed or treated via a KfW project.
With 62 ongoing projects and a funding volume of around EUR 620 million, KfW is supporting advances in sexual and reproductive health, with a focus on Sub-Saharan Africa. With the new commitments made in 2021, 2,5 million people, predominantly women, will have access to new or improved reproductive health services.
On account of the pandemic, KfW has stepped up its efforts to achieve SDG 3 and committed a total of EUR 6.6 billion to 212 projects in 71 countries as part of the BMZ’s 2020 and 2021 Emergency COVID-19 Support Programme. In this way, KfW is supporting its partner countries both in the short-term fight against the pandemic in the healthcare sector and in overcoming the social and economic impacts.