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. And after the pandemic is before the pandemic: COVID-19 was not the first infectious disease with global consequences and the scientific community agrees that it is only a matter of time before the next pandemic. In view of the close global interconnection of states, transport and the economy, it is therefore important to be prepared. 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”, therefore needs global efforts in pandemic prevention.
Even if pandemics are now in the spotlight - the previous health challenges still exist. What's more, the high utilisation of health systems by COVID-19 exposed the shortcomings - not least because resources were temporarily shifted within the already weak systems to fight the pandemic. As a result, access to other essential services such as tuberculosis control or sexual and reproductive health promotion deteriorated significantly.
COVID-19 as well as the current crises in the areas of energy and food have 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 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 2022 KfW – largely acting on behalf of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) – committed around EUR 924 million to projects that help improve health in partner countries. The volume of COVID-19 projects in the health sector has decreased from the previous year (2021) from EUR 372 million to EUR 27 million in 2022. In contrast, the funds for the promotion of reproductive health have increased slightly from EUR 90 million (2021) to EUR 97 million.
Of the total of 184 ongoing health projects with a volume of almost EUR 4 billion, around EUR 1 billion is allocated to 20 projects for combating infectious diseases. With a funding volume of EUR 582 million, 43 of the total projects support sexual and reproductive health, with a focus on Sub-Saharan Africa.
In view of the pandemic and its consequences, KfW is supporting its partner countries not only in combating the pandemic in the health sector in the short term, but also in dealing with the social and economic consequences in the long term. Accordingly, the share of new projects committed between 2018 and 2022 that contribute to poverty reduction in the main or secondary objective has increased from 67% to 94%.