Germany Foreign Aid
In 2019, Germany followed the U.S. as the second-largest donor to official development assistance (ODA). Historically, Germany’s foreign aid has focused on migration, forced displacement, food security and climate concerns. In its foreign aid policy, Germany aims to create lasting change in the nations it reaches. Here are eight facts about Germany’s foreign aid.

8 Facts About Germany’s Foreign Aid

  1. The BMZ Handles Aid: The Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) primarily addresses the regulation of foreign aid. The BMZ is responsible for the development of policies, management of projects and the allocation of funds in times of crisis. Its support centers on several factors important to development, including “good governance, education, rural development, climate control, sustainable development, and a strengthening of the private sector.” Germany expects responsibility from the countries it lends aid to and thus does not grant budget support freely.
  2. The BMZ Does Not Work Alone: The BMZ works in accordance with other ministries, including the Federal Foreign Office and Ministry of Defense. The Federal Foreign Office addresses matters of humanitarian aid and, if a military presence is necessary, the Ministry of Defense offers assistance. KfW, a German-owned development bank, has also played a key role in Germany’s foreign aid contributions.
  3. Making UHC a Reality: The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of 2015 marked Universal Health Coverage (UHC) as a priority. UHC embodies the idea of having “all individuals and communities receive the health services they need without suffering financial hardship.” Germany has committed to this ideal in three stages. Globally, Germany aims to strengthen health systems through technical and financial support. On a multilateral level, Germany endorses the P4HNetwork, which provides health financing, and the L4UHC leadership course, which helps in the development of partnerships. Lastly, Germany is aiding its partner countries directly in the development of necessary changes.
  4. Supporting Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance: Germany has donated to Gavi through the BMZ since 2006 and its support continues to grow. Chancellor Merkel “pledged EUR 600 million for Gavi over the 2016-2020 strategic period” in 2015. Providing immunizations across the globe, Germany’s support of Gavi enables a safer, healthier world.
  5. BMZ Unveils an Effective Reform Strategy: The BMZ’s primary goal remains the same; eliminating poverty and world hunger. However, the BMZ is changing how it aims to achieve this goal through new focuses, new partnerships and new modes of cooperation. BMZ has reduced its number of partner countries from 85 to 60 but has done so to maximize its efforts strategically. German foreign aid is attempting to establish peace and structure with its nexus and peace partners. By “strengthening [German] support for people in crisis and refugee regions, addressing the root causes and supporting them in the process of stabilization,” the BMZ is aiming to build up nations like Syria, Yemen and Iraq.
  6. Germany and Syria: In recent years, Germany has shown great support for the Syrian people. In 2018, more than 500,000 Syrian refugees resided in Germany. German support is not solely based on helping the refugees, however. In June 2020, as part of a conference jointly hosted by the E.U. and U.N., Germany pledged $1.78 billion to humanitarian aid for Syria.
  7. Germany and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: Adopted in September 2015, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development replaced the previous Millennium Development Goals. The initiative comprises 17 goals and ties together poverty reduction and sustainability. Within the decade, the United Nations wishes to address the most pressing concerns of poverty, female empowerment and climate concerns. Germany is one of many nations playing a large role in addressing these goals.
  8. An Endorsement that Looks to the Future: Alongside Ghana and Norway, Germany requested the establishment of a global action plan in April 2018. This request took the form of the Global Action Plan for Healthy Lives and Well-being for All. The plan has united 12 agencies dedicated to health, development and humanitarian efforts, allowing each to strengthen each other while addressing the central SDGs.

The nation has proudly taken up the mantle of leadership and will serve as the Presidency of the Council of the European Union from June 2020 until December 2020. Germany promised additional ODA-funds in June 2020, dedicating $3.5 billion for “global health measures, humanitarian assistance, and overall development cooperation.”

Kelli Hughes
Photo: Flickr

German Companies
In an effort to place German companies at the center of Africa’s rising market, Germany has allocated $1.1 billion in the Development Investment Fund. According to the executive chairman of the African Energy Chamber, using German companies’ technology and capital will allow Africa to build a sustainable energy model.

Three Pillars of the Development Investment Fund

The Development Investment Fund comprises of three components. These components are AfricaConnect, AfricaGrow and the African Business Network. Each project aims toward a different aspect of growth for German companies as well as the African market. One aims toward larger businesses, one toward small and medium enterprises (SME) and one towards SMEs as well as foreign investment and development.

The isolation of individual African countries due to COVID-19 has caused them to start building necessary gas and power projects. These projects provide energy to those who are out of reach. More than 600 million Africans lack access to electricity. This prevents them from utilizing all the resources available to pull them out of poverty. The investments come at a time where the continent is already working to reshape its energy infrastructure. The AfricaConnect program has incorporated additional provisions due to COVID-19 in order to boost the African and German economy.

AfricaConnect

The AfricaConnect initiative contains 400 million Euros to go toward German businesses for projects in Africa. Companies receive loans between $845,000 to $4.5 million if the projects are ecologically and socially sustainable. German companies have to benefit African markets by creating jobs, introducing new technology or doing other groundwork.

AfricaGrow

Additionally, AfricaGrow aims at SME businesses in Africa. This fund aims at African businesses rather than German businesses along with African venture and equity funds. With around $188 million in the fund, it is meant to close the existing financial gap. It also allows the African economy to comprise of many SMEs that will create sustainable jobs for the future.

African Business Network

Furthermore, the third prong of the Development Investment Fund is the African Business Network, which aims at trade promotion. By boosting development cooperation, German SMEs are able to participate in the African market, expanding the role of German businesses in these fields. This initiative provides support to German companies through advice by stakeholders. It also acts as a means of holding SMEs in the market. The African Business Network focuses on 12 African countries in particular. These countries are Ethiopia, Egypt, Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Morocco, Rwanda, Senegal, Togo and Tunisia.

German Companies and Energy Poverty

Due to the lack of a sustainable energy source in many parts of Africa, African businesses in the energy sector have struggled with maintaining power. In South Africa, the electricity company Eskom had to fly out German technical experts to help with building sustainable energy grids due to the fact that around 80% to 90% of their power came from coal power plants, according to The South African. As a result, South Africa turns to solar energy. It launches an Integrated Resource Plan which calls for six gigawatts of solar by 2030.

How Germany is Helping Africa

This lack of sustainable energy is exactly what German companies entering the energy industry look to solve, thereby harnessing the full power of the African consumer market. Senegal was one of the first African countries to begin this, seeing German support for around 800 SMEs. Germany has more than 200 million Euros invested in projects focusing on providing electricity throughout the country. This electricity is provided through renewable energy and better harnessing pre-existing energy sources. Power plants that produce 25 megawatts of energy are placed outside of Dakar. This pushes African energy sources forward.

The funds also gave rise to multiple German companies in the energy sector including Pfisterer Unternehmensgruppe. Pfisterer Unternehmensgruppe has already begun placing offshore wind farms and building a variety of generators to hold the power in smaller spaces. Smaller companies such as AfricanSol aim to build solar panels across the continent with the initial panels built in Eritrea. However, these efforts slowed down as countries shut down due to COVID-19.

Energy poverty is one of the largest obstacles that Germany and a number of African countries will work together to tackle. However, the funds will also give rise to better technology for a growing market that is involved in the larger world. As Africa’s trade deals connect it to the global market, millions of consumers enter and a trillion-dollar economy opens up. For both Germany and Africa, investing now will lead to huge payoffs. With the rich natural resources of the country combined with front-running German technology, poverty in Africa might see huge decreases in the near future.

Nitya Marimuthu
Photo: Pixabay

SDG Goal 16 in Germany
With an index score of 80.8, Germany ranks fifth among all U.N. member states for progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The strategies and efforts for SDG Goal 16 in Germany, particularly help it to stand out as an international spearhead for sustainable development.

What is SDG Goal 16?

SDG Goal 16 calls for countries to “promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.” Global progress is measured via the Sustainable Development Report, which includes the following indicators for SDG Goal 16:

  • Homicide rates
  • Percentage of unsentenced detainees in the prison population
  • Percentage of population who feel safe walking alone at night in the city or area where they live
  • Qualitative assessment of property rights
  • Percentage of children younger than age 5 with birth registrations
  • Corruption Perception Index
  • Percentage of population ages 5 to 14 involved in child labor
  • Exports of major conventional weapons
  • Press Freedom Index
  • Persons held in prison

For all but one of these indicators, Germany is on track to maintain SDG Goal 16 achievement, rendering its progress towards this goal substantial. According to the German Federal Association for Sustainability, the country has adopted several measures to ensure the achievement of SDG Goal 16 in Germany. Moreover, Germany’s progress may allow it to serve as a model for other U.N. member states.

A Closer Look

Germany’s role on the world stage has been critical towards fulfilling the SDGs by 2030. The country’s National Sustainability Strategy of 2016 has been central to its achievements thus far. The strategy covers additional goals for development cooperation and outlines a long-term process of sustainable development. Although originally introduced by the German government in 2002, the country revised its strategy in 2016 to align with the SDGs. Now, Germany regularly revisits its principles and parameters every two years.

Updating the National Sustainability Strategy in 2018 was especially effective for SDG Goal 16 in Germany. The changes introduced objectives that refocused international development and institution-building. Some of the panel’s recommendations included increased accountability and transparency in international financial institutions. Further recommendations also included support for sustainable practices, internationally. Importantly, the peer review also called for the incorporation of sustainable development in curricula throughout all levels of the education systems. This demonstrates Germany’s clear commitment to building sustainable, inclusive institutions for the long-term.

Notably, the indicator trends for SDG Goal 16 in Germany also suggest positive outcomes in sustainable development and institution-building. The country has a Press Freedom Index of 14.60 and a Property Rights value of 5.31. The country also achieved a long-term objective in 2018, i.e., 100% of children born (younger than age 5) had their births registered with the relevant national civil authorities.

Recent Updates

Germany’s federal government intends to further update its National Sustainability Strategy in 2020, taking into account the expert advice from another peer review. As for the SDG Goal 16 indicators, exports of major conventional weapons is an area in need of improvement for Germany — given the country’s index of 2.04 in 2019. German arms exports increased by 65% during that year, whereas the previous three years saw consistent decreases.

Despite this, Germany remains “committed to peace and justice worldwide” when promoting sustainable development practices. From protecting human rights to forwarding inclusive governance, the country remains on track for achieving SDG Goal 16 by the year 2030.

Rachel Moloney
Photo: Flickr

helping refugees find answers
In 2015, social entrepreneur Cornelia Röper saw a need for a platform that would help newly settled refugees with questions about employment opportunities, health, education and asylum. Röper’s experience working with a collaborative workshop for refugees in Germany made it clear to her that more work remained to help them. This was how the concept for Wefugees, an online platform helping refugees find answers to their questions, came into being.

Global Displacement Is High

According to the U.N. Refugee Agency, global displacement is higher than ever before. By December 2018, around 70.8 million people had been displaced from their homes. Violence, human rights violations and wars can all cause people to migrate. Though the number of refugees and migrants arriving in Europe has decreased since 2015, 141,472 people arrived in Europe in 2018 alone. The death rate for those trying to reach Europe on the Mediterranean has increased to more than 1,000 people in 2019. Almost 33% of worldwide refugees come from Syria. Another 33% of the global refugee population hails from Afghanistan, South Sudan, Myanmar and Somalia.

Children Seeking Asylum

Children and young people younger than age 18 make up 50% of the worldwide refugee population. Of these children, some 110,000 are separated from their families. In 2018, 27,600 children sought asylum in countries all over the world. As a result of this trend, 3.7 million children are currently not attending school, due to displacement.

Integrating Refugees into Society

The Wefugees platform addresses these issues by helping refugees in Röper’s native Germany become visible and successful at integrating into their new society. The interactive platform offers a safe place where displaced persons can ask specific questions, and volunteers can provide the answers.

Röper has been working full-time on these issues since February 2016. She was then joined by Wefugees co-founder Henriette Schmidt. Röper and Schmidt feel that refugees will be able to integrate into a new, unfamiliar society more effectively if they can solve their problems independently. By helping refugees find answers, Wefugees works to pass along information so that displaced persons can help themselves (with the aid of volunteers). The goal is for refugees to start their new lives on their own. Consequently, this online platform helping refugees relieves the pressure on conventional aid programs as well.

From Visas to Scholarships

The Wefugees platform addresses questions about problems such as obtaining asylum, traveling between countries, establishing residency in various countries and applying for citizenship. Also, this online platform is helping refugees with concerns about visa issues, relocation and the deportation process. Additionally, Wefugees helps refugees find answers to queries about power of attorney, international drivers’ licenses, housing markets, cultural activities and scholarships for students. The information exchange assists in the goal of helping refugees find answers to persistent problems. For instance — finding work, legal advice, healthcare, education and housing.

Changing the Future for Refugees

Word about Wefugees is growing. In 2018, Röper was included in Forbes’ list of “30 under 30 Europe: Social Entrepreneurs.” She has also received the Gates Foundation Changemaker Award. The online platform that Röper started is the world’s largest for refugee topics, with more than 8,000 users per month. More than 20,000 people have used the site, which continues the important work of helping refugees find the answers to improve their lives.

– Sarah Betuel
Photo: Flickr

Poverty Eradication in Germany
Historically, Germany has not been without its economic or financial hardships. Since the 1990s, nearly a quarter (or 15%) of Germany’s population has had the classification of being poor. What is Germany doing in the modern age to combat a significant and stagnant impoverished population? Additionally, why have Germany’s poverty rates not reflected the country’s staggering economic growth? Finally, how is Germany’s poverty-reduction legislation impacting refugee families? This article will illuminate the radical legislation and innovations about poverty eradication in Germany including what the country has implemented to reduce inequality, domestically and globally, in the 21st century.

The BMZ Behind It All

Poverty eradication in Germany began with the BMZ (a German-language acronym for the English-translated “Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development”). The BMZ is solely responsible for all affairs regarding poverty relief and economic development in Germany and abroad. In recent history, the BMZ has committed itself to addressing the underlying factors, circumstances and mechanisms that create poverty in the first place. In the early 1990s, the BMZ published international and domestic development goals which, to this day, influences the nation’s fight against poverty. Strong social welfare, personal incentive for work and widespread access to education reduced the national proportion of people experiencing poverty to as low as 7% in 2007.

At the time, radical steps like systemic reformations and direct focus on franchising majority impoverished groups of people were novel and began Germany’s repertoire as a powerful benefactor to its poorest constituents. With recent international crises (like the Syrian Civil War) and the advent of automation, however, Germany’s poverty line has all but slowly grown. However, a recent 6.1 billion euro ($7.2 billion USD) expansion of Germany’s social welfare program, Hartz IV (dedicated to long-term unemployment) spells relief for many displaced and at-risk peoples in Germany.

Young Families, New Challenges

Starting a family is, unquestionably, one of the most difficult and unique things a couple (or individual) can undertake. Additionally, it is no short order to both raise a young family while providing for it – and, sometimes, it is nearly impossible to maintain a “work-life balance,” which typically ends in financial hardship. Poor families are at risk to begin with; a new child may well be the tipping point into impoverishment, and the cycle only proliferates when families raise children in poverty. Enter one of Germany’s most radical pieces of legislation, the Parental Allowance and Parental Leave Act, created exclusively to alleviate the financial stresses that new families often face. New parents may receive up to 60% of their income for up to 3 years, addressing underlying systemic cycles of poverty, especially with already at-risk, younger individuals, rather than focusing on short-term manifestations of it.

Providing low-risk, low-stress economic stability for growing families almost ensures that the cycle breaks as well. As of 2014, only 9.5% of children in Germany lived in poverty, compared to the nation’s average of 14%. The Parental Allowance and Leave act has proven to be an extremely successful player in poverty relief in Germany.

International Commitments

Germany has not only invested in domestic poverty relief, it is also interested in working toward poverty relief internationally. Chancellor Angela Merkel has committed to doubling the nation’s UNDP core funding to combat the economic hardship that COVID-19 has brought on internationally. Germany has been the largest single contributor to the UNDP’s core resources since 2017 and has solidified that position by donating nearly $124 million to the core fund this year alone. What that means is increased spending power for the UNDP during the COVID-19 pandemic, which the UNDP predicts will cause the first reversal of human global development since the early 1990s. Germany’s increased budget for the UNDP will go to essential poverty relief efforts in 130 countries that the pandemic has greatly affected, providing assistance for hundreds of millions across the globe.

COVID-19 Relief in Germany

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Germany experienced its impact economically, socially and culturally much like the rest of the world. In Germany, the unemployment rate from March to April 2020 increased by 0.8%. Poverty rates have remained consistent as well, with surprising research showing that poorer workers are at no greater risk of succumbing to the novel coronavirus. What differentiates Germany’s COVID experience is its radical response and mobilization against the extreme economic fallout COVID spelled.

The German government has committed an unprecedented $868 billion relief package for its most vulnerable populations, small businesses and manufacturers. In addition, Germany has expanded wage subsidies for furloughed individuals and executed a tax slash of 3%. In this exceptionally trying time, Germany has revolutionized the way the world thinks about social security, and it stands that German citizens will feel the impact of this emergency poverty relief in Germany for decades to come.

Germany has been a litmus test as a standard for social welfare since the dawn of the modern age. Poverty eradication in Germany is a multifaceted, extensive and progressive approach to the seemingly Sisyphean task of battling poverty at home and abroad. Strong COVID-19 relief plans, the groundbreaking Parental Leave Act, a dedicated ministry of economic affairs and a commitment to international well-being makes for innovative anti-poverty measures that are paving the way for the world.

– Henry Comes-Pritchett
Photo: Getty Images

Germany's Duel System
Germany has gained worldwide acclaim for its joint education and vocational training programs. There are tens of thousands of asylum-seekers participating throughout the country, which signals concerted government effort to create a path to employment.

What is Germany’s Dual System?

Germany’s vocational education and training (VET) programs combine practical and theoretical training with real-life work experience. Those enrolled typically spend part of the week in vocational schools and the rest work directly at specific German companies. After two to three years, certification and sufficient language preparedness all but guarantees job placement, which is critical in the refugee integration effort.

After the influx of refugees in 2015, Germany’s dual system has become an essential part of the country’s integration strategy. The number of refugees entering tradecraft apprenticeships, both through vocational school and otherwise, increased 140% during 2018. Given the success of these vocational schools, many other European countries such as Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg and Denmark have adopted similar frameworks.

Syrian Asylum-Seekers in Germany

Syrian refugees and asylum seekers in particular benefit from Germany’s undertakings. Of the more than 1.4 million asylum applicants, the majority come from Syria.

Enrollment in a government-sponsored language program is necessary for participation in the dual system. While this may seem like a barrier to integration at first glance, asylum-seeker status guarantees the right to attend subsidized language courses.

These social measures are helping to lower barriers to employment for Syrian refugees. Germany’s dual system has positive social and economic outcomes in its own right, but it’s just one part of an ongoing, historic effort by many actors throughout the country. Participation in language courses and vocational training doesn’t guarantee quick integration into society for all, but it is a step in the right direction.

A Positive Impact

Thanks in part to this system, half of all refugees living in Germany will find steady employment within five years of arrival. The influx of asylum seekers, which initially caused much concern, has had an overwhelmingly positive impact on the German economy. More importantly, the opportunity to study German and find employment has improved the lives of Syrian asylum seekers.

As the most important aspect of integration, employment reduces feelings of alienation and creates a brighter path for Syrian families. By giving refugees the chance to immerse themselves in the language and culture as well as enter the workforce, Germany makes escaping poverty a reality for many.

– Rachel Moloney
Photo: PxHere

Hunger in Germany
Germany plays an enormous role in the battle against global poverty, from its sweeping refugee integration efforts to its special initiatives against world hunger. It was also one of the three largest UNICEF contributors in 2019, alongside the United States and the United Kingdom. Given the country’s position, it may come as a surprise that hunger persists in Germany. However, as of 2015, nearly 20% of children were at risk of poverty. The majority of the population has a high standard of living, but around 4% experienced moderate to severe food insecurity between 2016 and 2018.

Poverty in Germany

According to Ulrich Schneider, the chief executive of Germany’s Equal Welfare Organization, the gap between rich and poor German states has increased since the reunification in 1990. Poverty is heavily concentrated in areas such as North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, Lower Saxony, Germany and some Eastern German states. Lack of access to nutritious food has affected the health of the German population. The prevalence of obesity was 26% in 2016, with an average risk of premature death due to non-communicable diseases (NCDs) at 12%.

Unemployment in Germany

Although unemployment rates have fluctuated during the past 30 years, low-paying employment among low- and middle-skill workers and women is a driving factor of poverty and hunger. Unemployment surged past 12% in 2005, and the current rate is 6.4%. Since the rapid influx of refugees began in 2015, Germany has seen lower unemployment rates and higher economic growth. The majority of asylum seekers are working in low-skilled, low-paying jobs, but the long-term trends are encouraging. As of 2019, around one-third of refugees have a job, but many individuals rely on social welfare and federal expenditures in order to feed their families. Unemployment and underemployment among parents in Germany is the main factor in putting families at risk of poverty.

Delivering Aid

The federal government provides a variety of programs and subsidies to make up for disadvantages resulting from poverty and a lack of societal integration. German municipalities and states are primarily responsible for this task, but many other actors also work to resolve poverty and food insecurity. Thankfully, Tafel Deutschland food banks are widely accessible throughout the country. There are more than 940 nonprofit Tafel locations, which together serve more than 1.5 million people. Nearly one-third of them are children and youth. Many locations temporarily closed due to COVID-19 risks, but numerous new volunteers have gotten involved to deliver needed assistance in various regions.

Private organizations and religious communities play an increasingly important role as well. They complement the work of food banks and often extend the reach of aid to residents facing food insecurity in Germany. For vulnerable groups such as women, children and the elderly, the solidarity and tolerance these organizations provide has been paramount.

Hunger may not be as prevalent in Germany as in other parts of the world, but the work of private and nonprofit organizations helps mitigate food insecurity across the country. Ensuring that no one goes hungry is a complicated task, but the current course in Germany is positive.

Rachel Moloney
Photo: Flickr

Despite being a necessary precaution to avoiding life-threatening reactions, managing food allergies is still considerably more difficult for low-income families, according to researchers at the University of Waterloo. Although much progress has been made to increase awareness of food allergies, in Germany in particular, the high costs of allergen-free food products and medications leave Germany’s poor disproportionately affected by allergen-free food inaccessibility. With increases in both food sensitivities and poverty rates in recent years, Germany might encounter a growing issue of food inaccessibility — and it may not be the only country to do so.

Prevalence of Food Allergies in Germany

Globally, the prevalence of food allergies has been rising steadily over the past few decades, affecting nearly 10% of children in Australia and 2% of adults throughout Europe.

In Germany, a study conducted by the Environmental Medicine Commission of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) places the prevalence of food allergies in adults at 4.7%. While researchers note that there have been relatively no changes to the doctor-diagnosed prevalence of food allergies in Germany over the past 15 years, food sensitivities in Germany still remain higher than in most other European countries. Approximately 25.5% of adults were “sensitized” to at least one food in the RKI study, meaning that researchers detected IgE antibodies specific to at least one food allergen in their blood. That compares to a food sensitivity prevalence of only 11% of Spain’s population and 14% of the U.K.’s population.

Although researchers previously observed a greater prevalence of allergies in urban areas, research in Bavaria found that rural areas aren’t excluded from the allergy “epidemic” either. While several studies have associated living on farms with a decreased risk of food allergies in Germany, other research notes an increased prevalence of allergies (37.3%) in the Bavarian countryside as compared to the German national average (20.0%).

The Cost of Allergies

Such data suggests an increased demand for allergen-free foods in rural communities—a hard ask considering the disproportionate distribution of supermarkets. Although supermarkets and discounters are widely accessible by car throughout Germany, by foot their accessibility is considerably poorer in rural areas, especially for less mobile groups like the elderly.

Even if there are supermarkets nearby, however, that doesn’t mean they shelve allergen-free products. Despite the prevalence of food allergies in Germany, allergen-free food products are still considerably more expensive than their mainstream counterparts ($4.50 for a loaf of gluten-free bread compared to $2.50 for a whole grain loaf in the U.K.). The high costs of purchasing ingredient substitutes, preventing cross-contamination and ensuring compliance with strict government regulations contribute to these costs, according to BBC.

Like allergen-free food products, potentially life-saving diagnostics and medications remain a large expense for those with food allergies in Germany and across Europe. Between hospital visits, allergy treatments and travel costs, researchers at the University of Finland concluded that families with a child between 1-2 years of age spend an average of $3,600 on managing their child’s food allergy.

The high costs of allergen-free foods and treatments as well as the lack of accessibility to supermarkets, are not favorable for the food security of Germany’s poor. With 15.5% of the German population currently living in poverty, inaccessibility to expensive allergen-free products may become a more severe problem. However, across Germany, nonprofits and government agencies are taking action to tackle allergen-free food inaccessibility from as many angles as possible.

Increasing Supply of Allergen-Free Food Products

As a result of the increasing demand of allergen-free products (a robust 20% increase over the past 12 months in the case of EHL Ingredients), German food manufacturers are accelerating production of their “free-from” lines. In 2008, for example, only 6.4% of dairy products were lactose-free; by 2013, that number had nearly doubled to 12.1%.

However, nonprofits aren’t simply waiting for the increased demand for allergen-free foods to take down towering prices. Many, like the German Celiac Society (DZG), are also actively intervening to ensure accessibility to gluten-free foods for those with food allergies in Germany.

“Gluten-free food in Germany tend to be twice as expensive as gluten-containing food,” says Michael Mikolajczak, the DZG’s press office representative. “The DZG is talking to politicians about tax-free allowance for people with celiac disease in order to achieve financial compensation.”

Although Larissa Nitz, member of the DZG’s youth committee, said that such tax relief initiatives never were quite successful, both she and Mikolajczak point towards Germany’s strong welfare system as a source of financial assistance for those managing food allergies in Germany.

Accessibility of Food Banks

When it comes to supermarket accessibility, the norm of “buying local” combined with the high prevalence of food banks makes the long distance to supermarkets a less acute issue for those with food allergies in Germany. In fact, according to a 2015 paper examining the German food bank system, only 6.69% of all residents and 5.75% of all welfare recipients lacked access to at least one food bank in their district.

While the researchers did not examine whether these food banks offer allergen-free food products, they did mention that a majority of food donations (82.29%) were supplied by regular donors, most notably retailers. According to Nitz, this may be a reason for hope. As manufacturers of allergen-free food products experience heightened demand, their increased supply of products might allow them to lower prices, and perhaps even contribute more frequently to food bank donations. Food banks, in turn, might be able to contribute more frequently to schools, where the availability of gluten-free food options is oftentimes widely variable.

“In terms of lunch at universities and in-office canteens for those youths who already work, the experiences are very different,” said Nitz. “A concrete initiative we have as the youth committee, is that we on a yearly basis request the possibility of gluten-free breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as features like an exclusive toaster for gluten-free use only from German youth hostels.”

Physician Training and Health Insurance

National health insurance and increased allergy awareness have helped ensure more equitable access to treatments. Physician knowledge of food allergies in Germany is continuously enhanced by the research-based training of the Comprehensive Allergy Center Charite (CACC) in Berlin. The cost of doctor’s visits, on the other hand, are eased by the universal health insurance provided under German’s statutory healthcare system, to which 85% of Germany’s population have access as of 2014.

Allergen-free food accessibility has improved in accordance with increases in food allergies in Germany, as well as poverty rates. Allergy medications and allergen-free food products remain expensive. However, increased product demand combined with food banks and a national healthcare plan all point towards progress in the fight for global food security.

– Petra Dujmic
Photo: Pixabay

Burden of COVIDThe most recent pandemic has wreaked havoc on countries all over the world and has stagnated, or even reversed progress in many developing communities. While officials have been trying to reduce the number of cases worldwide, there have also been many tech developments that help alleviate the burden of COVID-19. Various apps and websites allow us to spread information, contact-trace and even enforce quarantine.

6 Ways Technology Helps Alleviate the Burden of COVID-19

  1. Afghanistan- Without proper guidance, misinformation can spread like wildfire and can be deadly. For this reason, the Ministry of Public Health joined forces with the Ministry of Telecommunications and Information Technology to create software that provides health information to Afghani citizens. Corona.asan.gov.af translates virus updates and information into three different languages, making it easily accessible for all people.
  2. Bulgaria- Local IT developers created a free app that connects citizens to health authorities to help ease the burden of COVID-19. Users verify their identity and can input various symptoms they are experiencing. A doctor will then review their symptoms and decide whether or not to send the patient to the closest medical facility for treatment. In addition to this, the app also can predict the future growth and spread of the virus. The developers are also willing to sell the software to other countries for a symbolic one euro.
  3. Germany- A Berlin-based tech startup created an initiative that would work on Android devices in developing countries throughout South America and North Africa. The project, called #AppsFightCovid would display health information on popup ads that already exist on different apps. The ads take info from the WHO website and advocate for frequent hand washing and wearing a mask in public. Because of these efforts, underdeveloped communities now have access to important COVID-19 information.
  4. Mexico- The Mexico City government created a screening service that determines how likely a user is to contract the coronavirus. The website also features a map that displays the closest hospitals and how much space is available in each of them. People can also filter the map based on whether they need a general care bed or a ventilator bed. In addition, users can input their symptoms and determine whether or not they require hospitalization. This helps alleviate the burden of COVID by reducing the number of unnecessary hospital patients during a global pandemic.
  5. United Nations- It is extremely difficult to get access to personal protective equipment and accurate information, especially for developing countries. Because of this, the U.N. partnered with the WHO and launched the Tech Access Partnership or TAP. This initiative helps reduce the burden of COVID by connecting expert manufacturers with developing manufacturers in poorer countries all over the world to share resources, knowledge and technical expertise. TAP will also aid countries in creating affordable and safe technology.
  6. Argentina- In hopes of reducing the number of coronavirus cases, a company is looking into enforcing quarantining and social distancing through a tracking app, though it is not yet operational. This would be a way to prevent the spread of COVID since the app would send an alert each time a person leaves their home. In addition, the Argentinian Ministry of Health created an application that allows people to evaluate their symptoms and see whether or not they require hospitalization.

 

Though the novel coronavirus has thrown us all for a whirlwind, many countries are doing their part to alleviate the burden of COVID by using technology. Whether it is through self-assessing symptoms, tracking hospitals or enforcing quarantine, government officials everywhere are trying to flatten the curve through the use of technology.

– Karin Filipova
Photo: Unsplash

Eliminate Poverty in Germany
Germany’s economy is booming. Since reunification, the unemployment rate has steadily decreased and Germany has turned itself into one of the richest countries in Europe. Nonetheless, poverty in Germany remains a potent issue. In 2017, more than 15% of people in Germany were impoverished. Here is some information about the country’s poverty rates as well as its plan to eliminate poverty in Germany.

The Rise of Poverty in Germany

According to the European Union’s (E.U.) standards, the number of individuals living in poverty in Germany is continuously increasing. In 1995, 12% of Germans were making wages that qualified them as at risk of or living in poverty. By 2014, that number had risen to approximately 16%. As of 2017, approximately 19% of people in Germany were at risk of living in poverty. Over 15% were already living below the poverty line. The Institute of German Economic and Social Research defined the poverty line as a 60% median net income.

The above percentages only represent households in Germany and do not include those living in refugee camps who may be experiencing poverty. As of 2018, Germany had more than 1 million refugees living within its borders.

Despite the country’s economic success in manufacturing and trade with the E.U., Germany’s poverty rate continues to reach record highs year after year. While the economic boom helps the country in certain ways, the benefits oftentimes do not reach the impoverished. People living in poverty often lack the resources necessary to escape impoverishment. Though new jobs are available, the wages are generally meager, while the profit tends to go to those who are already wealthy. Many attribute the rising poverty rate in Germany to the exploitation of the poor.

Unequal Poverty Across Germany

Impoverishment does not affect all regions of Germany equally. Southern Germany, the least impoverished area of the country, still has a poverty rate of about 12%. The region with the highest poverty rate, the North, has a poverty rate of a staggering 18%. Additionally, the North also experiences the highest poverty growth rate.

This inequality is largely attributed to the Ruhr region, a highly industrial area in Northern Germany. The Ruhr is the most densely populated region in the country, with production focusing largely on coal, steel and chemical manufacturing. During World War I and World War II, the Allied bombing destroyed nearly 75% of the region. Since then, Northern Germany has experienced long term impoverishment that continues to contribute to the growing poverty rate.

Solutions

Despite the growing rate of poverty, the country is aware of the issue and is actively working to eliminate poverty in Germany. The country is continuously creating more jobs and working towards a stronger economy. Additionally, Germany also raised its minimum wage in 2015 to 8.50 euros an hour. Experts believe that this increase in the minimum wage helped approximately 4 million people grow their wealth. The country has also strengthened support for vocational training in an attempt to increase the amount of employed low-skilled workers. Germany is aware of the economic inequality facing many of its citizens and is working hard to create more policies that help the poor escape poverty’s clutches.

Poverty in Germany is a pertinent issue. Despite the country’s wealth and economic growth, the rate of poverty continues to rise, consistently reaching new highs every year. Although the issue of impoverishment may seem overwhelming, the German government continues to persist and develop programs designed to eliminate poverty in Germany.

– Paige Musgrave 
Photo: Flickr