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

Improve Global Health
In June 2018, German Chancellor Angela Merkel introduced a new plan for Germany to become a front-runner in global health. This plan was to fully come into action by the end of 2019. In addition, the BMJ Journal reported that the plan involved bringing in non-governmental representatives to provide their knowledge to develop a strategy for Germany to improve global health.

What is the Plan?

Germany worked with the World Health Organization (WHO) to develop the Global Action Plan for Healthy Lives and Well-Being for All program. One of the main goals of this initiative is to accelerate progress in seven key areas:

  1. Primary health care
  2. Sustainable financing
  3. Community and civil society
  4. Determinants of health
  5. Innovative programming in fragile and vulnerable settings and for disease outbreak responses
  6. Research and Development, Innovation and Access
  7. Data and digital health

These seven points focus on the main areas of mobilizing and enabling communities. They also focus on providing governments with the necessary funding and knowledge to help their people and ensuring the research and money is going to the areas that most need it.

Funding

Germany began working towards many of these goals as early as 2018. The Global Fund reports that Germany pledged 1 billion euros (roughly $1.094 billion) towards The Global Fund’s fight against diseases such as HIV, malaria and AIDS. Also, the website states that this was a 17.6 percent increase from its previous pledge. Germany is pledging this amount for a three-year period.

The website Donar Tracker notes that Germany donated 47 percent of its development assistance fund to multilateral, or multi-country, organizations. The website states that the main recipients of this funding were the previously mentioned Global Fund, the E.U. and Gavi. Gavi is an organization focused on giving impoverished countries access to vaccines.

Cooperation

The Global Health Hub Germany is a website that Germany hosts to improve global health. This website calls itself the platform for Global Health. The World Health Summit, which Berlin, Germany holds annually, helped to organize the launch of The Global Health Hub, claiming that its mission statement is one of cooperation.

The Global Health Hub Germany aims to inform people, get them working together and develop new ways for the world to improve global health. Additionally, it hosts frequent events and conferences aimed to give people the information they need to help improve global health. The website launched on October 29, 2019. Since then, it gained 555 members as of November 2019. Its members consist of activist groups and experts in the health field. The Global Action Plan for Healthy Lives and Well-being for All states Germany’s mission statement going forward to improve global health. Funding, cooperation and mobilization are just some of the ways that Germany aims to improve global health.

Jacob Creswell
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in Germany
The latest stats by the Federal Association of Homelessness Help (BAGW) show that there were 678,000 homeless people in Germany in 2018. This figure marked an increase of more than 4 percent between 2017 and 2018. The majority of these people sleep in emergency quarters, while 41,000 sleep on the streets.

Causes of Homelessness

In Germany, there are several factors that contribute to homelessness. One is the decreased number of social housing units. Social housing units have reduced by 60 percent since 1990 as the government continues to sell its stock of housing units to private investors. Additionally, there has been a decrease in affordable housing, particularly in large cities and urban centers. Studies show that housing costs in Germany are among the highest in Europe. This affects those with incomes below the poverty threshold, as well as young people (ages 18-24). Munich is reported to have the highest prices for both renting and buying houses in Germany. Berlin, which is said to be at the center of housing shortages in Germany, could account for about 20 percent of the country’s homeless.

Finally, the increase in immigrants has greatly contributed to the rise of homelessness in Germany. The immigrants are from other European Union countries, particularly Eastern European, and are also refugees and asylum seekers. It is estimated that 440,000 of the homeless are migrants. The number of homeless people with migrant backgrounds rose by 5.9 percent compared to a 1.2 percent increase for those without a migrant background.

Housing Rights in Germany

In large cities and urban centers, such as Berlin and Munich, the homeless set up makeshift tent camps in parks and other open spaces. During the winter, in an attempt to avoid the adverse winter conditions, they relocate to U-Bahn (underground railway) stations. Law requires German municipalities to provide basic emergency accommodation to those at risk of homelessness. Various municipalities and NGOs are providing temporary and emergency housing services.

In addition, the Social Code in Germany stipulates that the risk of losing a home entitles the owner to some form of assistance. Covered by the municipalities, this could be a loan or allowance for rental debts. Of the 16 German states, only four of them have the right to housing enshrined in their state constitutions including Bavaria, Berlin, Brandenburg and Bremen. However, regulation throughout the country still establishes the right.

Current Efforts

In 2018, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel pledged to spend €6.85 billion on solutions to homelessness. She announced that the federal government would aim to build 1.5 million new housing units and 100,000 new social housing units by 2021. There are also more immediate relief efforts that individuals and German cities provided. For example, the city of Berlin is offering a warm hall in Kreuzberg as an alternative to the U-Bahn stations the homeless would stay in during the winter. Entrepreneur Matthias Müller is doing his part to help the homeless in Germany by introducing a shower caravan in Berlin. Matthias transformed a bus into the shower caravan, which is a unit with a sink, shower and toilet so that homeless women can maintain personal hygiene. The caravan is also accessible to people with disabilities.

Solutions

BAGW estimates that Germany needs 200,000 new affordable housing units each year to manage homelessness. The federal government, various municipalities and NGOs could also work together to emulate Finland’s Housing First approach. In this method, the goal is not to have temporary or emergency accommodation, but instead, permanent housing and needs-based support. This way, instead of just managing homelessness, Germany could end it completely.

– Sophia Wanyonyi
Photo: Flickr

airlines fight poverty
When thinking about airlines, people often only think about things such as comfort, price and convenience. Many forget to consider the different ways their favorite airlines make a difference to people around the world. Below lists how five of the world’s top airlines fight poverty.

How 5 Global Airlines Fight Poverty

  1. Qatar Airways: Travelers voted Qatar Airways the best airline in the world in 2019. The airline fights poverty by supporting and donating to charity projects in over 43 countries around the globe. One of these is Educate A Child. Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser of Qatar founded this initiative to provide children facing extreme poverty with opportunities for education. Since 2013, Qatar Airways’ customers and employees raised $2.3 million for the initiative. The airline matches the funds that customers donate onboard. Educate A Child works in countries around the world, from Uganda to Lebanon and Haiti.
  2. British Airways (BA): This airline fights poverty in partnership with Comic Relief through the Flying Start program. The airline raised more than 23 million pounds since the program’s inception in June 2010. Customers raise funds when they donate via the BA website or onboard the airlines. British Airways staff also gather donations via onboard collections as well as by participating in individual or group challenges such as skydiving, mountain climbing and cycling. Through Flying Start, BA helped more than 620,000 children and youth across the U.K. and other countries such as Ghana, South Africa, Jamaica and India.
  3. JetBlue: Travelers voted JetBlue the best airline in the U.S. The airline worked with the Dominican Republic Education and Mentoring (DREAM) Project since 2008 to provide equal opportunity to high-quality education to children in the Dominican Republic. In partnership with DREAM, JetBlue can reach 6,000 youth each year.Since 2006, JetBlue also partnered with First Book to give brand new books to children who would otherwise not be able to afford books or other learning material. The airline successfully distributed more than 430,000 new books to children in local U.S. communities as well as around the world. In 2016, when JetBlue launched its inaugural flight to Quito, Ecuador, its donation of 500 books to the Working Boys’ Center marked the first time since 2008 that the center received new books.
  4. Etihad Airways: The national airline of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) worked with Magic Bus to support children and youth between the ages of 12 and 18 in India. In December 2016, a group of volunteers from the airline’s staff worked in Mumbai and constructed a sports field, a weatherproof outdoor shelter as well as a vegetable garden. Since its founding 20 years ago, Magic Bus helped more than 1 million children across 22 states in India as well as children in Nepal, Myanmar and Bangladesh to gain skills and knowledge necessary to move out of poverty.
  5. Lufthansa: The German airline won the best European airline award in 2019. Lufthansa Group and Lufthansa employees formed an aid organization called the Help Alliance in 1999. It is through this alliance that the airline fights poverty. Currently, it manages 50 projects worldwide. The donations alone fund these programs. The Help Alliance constructed iThemba Primary School in Cape Town, South Africa where more than 200 students studied since January 2018. When the project finishes, 700 students will have the chance to receive a quality education. This is important as more than 2,000 children in Cape Town do not get the chance to attend school. In Brazil, the Broadening Horizons program enables 30 disadvantaged youth from around Sao Paulo Airport to receive vocational training as bakers or confectioners. The youth undergo six months of training after which most of them find jobs in one of the many catering companies, hospitals and hotels in the region.

Beyond moving people from one place to another, top airlines in the world give back to the communities around them. Customers can choose to travel with airlines that fight poverty and make a small donation to help them in their quest.

Sophia N. Wanyonyi
Photo: Pixabay

Mein Horrendous Facts about Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler, one of the most notorious figures in human history, became the leader (Führer), of the German Nazi Party in 1921 and the Chancellor in 1933. His fascist and lawless power led to the onset of World War II and the death of at least 11 million people. Here are 10 horrendous facts about Adolf Hitler and his rule.

10 Horrendous Facts About Adolf Hitler

  1.  As the leader of the Nazi Party, Hitler gave numerous politically charged speeches during which he blamed Germany’s Jewish population for the nation’s turmoil following World War I. He asserted that German Jews sought to control the Weimar Republic, the post-war government. He also claimed that they had influenced the Weimar Republic to accept the Treaty of Versailles which significantly limited the nation’s military power and demanded $33 billion in reparations for World War I. During a 1922 speech in Munich, Hitler proclaimed “There are only two possibilities, either victory of the Aryan or annihilation of the Aryan and the victory of the Jew.”
  2. While in prison for the failed coup d’état of the Beer Hall Putsch, Hitler wrote the first volume of Mein Kampf. Democrats, communists and internationalists are all targets in this narrative, but it targeted the Jews most bitterly. He declared that the highest racial purity was that of the German people, making them the master race and thus responsible for the elimination of all Jewish people. In this book, Hitler’s proclamations about Jews overtly shifted from those of deportation to murder. Further, he wrote extensively in support of the dismantling of democracy. Before the start of World War II, people purchased more than five million copies.
  3. In 1933, the same year that Hitler assumed total power, concentration camps arose in Germany. Suspected enemies of the Nazi Party faced imprisonment at the camps, the first of which was Dachau. Political opponents, gypsies, Jehovah’s Witnesses and homosexuals comprised the initial target population. Following 1938, Hitler’s forces filled the camps with Jewish prisoners, simply because they were Jews.
  4. Hitler outlawed youth groups like the Boy Scouts and required all non-Jewish boys in Germany to join his Hitler Youth Organization. Through this group, the Nazi Party held the power to condition over 90 percent of Germany’s young men. The boys faced military-like training in weaponry and survival while fostering an almost religious devotion to Hitler. Following years of indoctrination, boys at the age of 17 had to serve in the military.
  5. In 1935, Hitler enacted the Nuremberg Laws which stripped Jewish populations in Germany of their citizenship and banned marriage between Jews and Germans. Many consider these laws the foundation on which Hitler built the ensuing internment and murder of the German Jews. The passing of the Nuremberg Laws legalized the persecution of Jewish people as a part of Hitler’s Final Solution.
  6. On the nights of November 9 and 10 in 1938, German mobs took to the streets to attack Jews, destroying their homes and workplaces as well as burning synagogues. This event, called Kristallnacht or the Night of Broken Glass, led to the murder of 96 Jews and the burning of between 1,000 and 2,000 places of worship. Hitler and his administration both introduced the propaganda leading to this riot and offered encouragement for the mobs to continue their harassment. The administration later held Jews financially responsible for the damages incurred during these events.
  7. In early 1939, the Nazi Party secretly began the Child Euthanasia Program under which it murdered disabled children by lethal drug overdoses and starvation. Later that year, the program, shifting to the name Operation T4, extended to target disabled adults who faced murder by gas chamber. Hitler authorized all phases of the Nazi Party’s euthanasia efforts in order to “cleanse” Germany’s Aryan race, leading to the deaths of at least 250,000 physically and mentally disabled people. The infamous use of gas chambers at Hitler’s extermination camps originates from this program.
  8. Following the German invasion of Poland in 1939, Hitler began a campaign of anti-Jewish propaganda in order to concentrate Poland’s Jewish populations into areas called ghettos. Nazis propagated the idea that Jews carried diseases like typhus and thus required isolation. Ghettos suffered overcrowding and were cold, unsanitary and largely lacked in terms of food.
  9. To facilitate the Final Solution, Hitler authorized the implementation of Jewish extermination camps in 1941. Chelmno, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka, Majdanek and Auschwitz-Birkenau comprised the six camps intended only for the sole purpose of murder. Between 1942 and 1943, Hitler’s Nazi Party attempted to destroy these camps in order to conceal its abhorrent actions from Allied forces.
  10. With the loss inevitable to the Allied forces, Hitler and his frenzied party began recruiting thousands of young men, even those below the 17-year-old age requirement, to fight losing battles. Recruiters offered the children chocolates and candy in exchange for their lives. Thousands died in combat from lack of experience and training while others’ States executed them for refusing to fight.

Hitler’s Holocaust enabled the mass murder of at least 6 million European Jews. Another 5 million targeted groups perished alongside in concentration camps’ gas chambers or at the hands of Hitler’s barbaric forces. As demonstrated by the 10 horrendous facts about Adolf Hitler, people should never forget Nazi Germany’s actions so that they may never be repeated.

 – Bhavya Girotra
Photo: Flickr

The Marshall Plan
In 1947, Europe was still feeling World War II’s devastation. Rebuilding was not going as fast as necessary and people of every country were feeling the impacts. Economies had nearly come to a complete halt in most countries and there were up to 11 million refugees that needed to find jobs, homes and food. The United States was the only superpower in the world that could offer any assistance to the people of Europe because the war did not entirely influence its industries. The reason for the implementation of the Marshall Plan was to help people rebuild their homes and industries, as well as provide security and an economic boost to the U.S.

The Marshall Plan’s Origins

The Marshall Plan, formerly called the European Recovery Program, was an initiative proposed by the United States Secretary of State, George C. Marshall, in 1947. The plan aimed to accomplish several things. First, it was to provide aid to kickstart European countries whose economies the war destroyed. The second was to promote free trade that would not only benefit those countries but the United States as well. The third was to contain the spread of communism that was sweeping over Eastern Europe.

The Marshall plan gave aid to 15 countries; the United Kingdom, West Germany, Austria, France, the Netherlands, Iceland, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Denmark, Belgium, Sweden, Ireland, Portugal and Norway. President Harry Truman signed the plan into law on April 3, 1948; it brought aid to Europe in the form of machinery, fuel, food and money.

Aid for the Netherlands

World War II hit the Netherlands hard when the German forces occupied the country from 1940-1945. The war heavily damaged its infrastructure, agriculture and housing and they were in desperate need of repair. To rebuild its infrastructure, The Marshall Plan gave half a million dollars to the cement industry to repair roads, bridges and ports. The port in Rotterdam was particularly important because the country uses it to import goods. The Plan provided more funds to build housing for 9.5 million people living in the Netherlands. Fixing the agriculture of the Netherlands required the country to modernize its practices. It spent funds on new farming equipment and the treatment and repairing of the soil destroyed by years of fighting. In total, the Netherlands received $1.127 billion to rebuild its country.

Aid for Germany

Germany split in two shortly after World War II ended. The Soviet Union controlled East Germany while the United States and its allies controlled West Germany. West Germany received $1.4 billion in Marshall Plan aid although the war heavily impacted it. The whole of Germany had an aggressive bombing campaign to destroy its cities and invading armies from the west and east devastated the country’s communities. Twelve percent of the aid to West Germany went towards housing the nearly eight million refugees that had settled there after the war. These houses were necessary with a population of 67.9 million. Coal was another industry that was in desperate need; 40 percent of funding went towards this so that Germany could fuel its industries and factories. The funds from the Marshall Plan helped the German people find homes, jobs and food.

Aid for the UK

German bombings on British industrial sites had a terrible impact on the production of British goods, particularly on its southern cities. By 1948, the United Kingdom had mostly recovered from the war, but it needed to address more. While the U.K. was able to rebuild, the country was deep in debt and was having a challenging time feeding its people and keeping its industries going. Because of its 1948 population of 50 million people and its contribution to the war effort, the U.K. received the largest sum from the Marshall Plan, $3.2 billion. These funds provided the country with financial stability and allowed it to balance out its economy. While the aid did not go towards helping the U.K.’s economy, it benefited from the food and fuel brought in and the breathing room necessary to stabilize its country.

In total, the United States spent over $13 billion in aid for the 15 countries. These countries were able to provide food, fuel, housing and stability for their people during a devastating time thanks to the Marshall Plan. The average GDP of the nations that received aid increased from their prewar levels by 35 percent, and overall industrial production rose by 40 percent. The U.S. was also a beneficiary of the economic success of the European nations engaging in trade. In the decade following the end of the Marshall Plan in 1951, the GDP of the United States had nearly doubled. The Marshall Plan shows the benefits of providing foreign aid that can help not only those receiving but those giving as well.

– Sam Bostwick
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Germany
Germany is a developed country that offers decent living conditions for its citizens. The average life expectancy is 81 years, which aligns with Europe’s average life expectancy. While there are numerous factors that play a role in determining life expectancy, Germany makes a tremendous effort to manipulate these factors and extend the average. Here are 10 facts about life expectancy in Germany.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Germany

  1. Education and Skills: When examining the 10 facts about life expectancy in Germany, it is important to consider schooling. To benefit its citizens, Germany features a highly respected dual-apprenticeship system in its high schools. Students receive both general and occupation-specific education, indirectly improving job quality and earning potential. Eighty-seven percent of German adults between the ages of 25 and 64 have completed upper-secondary education, which is well above the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) determined 78 percent average.
  2. Jobs and Earnings: Job security and salaries often determine the living conditions of families, making it an important factor in determining life expectancy. Seventy-five percent of Germans between the ages of 15 and 64 have a paid job. Only 1.6 percent of Germany’s labor force do not have employment, which is less than the OECD’s average of 1.8 percent. The government recognizes the importance of income and takes a stand by protecting its labor force. In 2015, Germany established a statutory minimum wage. Collective bargaining has diminished, allowing financial-security for low-income workers.
  3. Environment: The German government has made a public effort to make public transportation more efficient by investing in cleaner trains and hybrid buses in order to reduce emissions. The government has also acted to modify heating units such as wood-burning stoves. In 2010, Germany mandated the refitting of these units with particulate filters by 2024 if emissions do not reduce by then.
  4. Social Connection: While it seems odd to include social connections in a list of 10 facts about life expectancy in Germany, people’s social network plays a large role in guiding their life. In Germany, the FAMILIENwerkSTADT project aids migrant families by easing them through the process of assimilation. In this program, childcare facilities focus on providing children with better access to education. Immigrant families are less isolated through such programs. Ninety percent of Germans are confident that they know someone outside of immediate family that they can count on in bad times, similar to the OECD average of 89 percent.
  5. Health Status: Germany has a life expectancy of 81 percent, slightly above the OECD average of 80 percent. The government is able to provide equal health care for all of its citizens by recognizing those with disabilities. Any workers with health issues have the right to receive aid from their employers such as a modified workplace, special help and part-time opportunities. Germany has spent a GDP of nearly 0.3 percent on disabled people, which is much higher than in other OECD countries.
  6. Work-Life Balance: The government encourages flexible schedules because of the importance of family commitments. In 2015, Germany instituted the Erfolgsfaktor Familie (Family as a Success Factor) to achieve work-life balance. This program advocated for flexi-time for all employees as well as more affordable childcare. Later that same year, Germany established a parental reform in which parents receive money for taking more time off. Currently, full-time Germans are able to spend 65 percent of their day (15.6 hours) for personal care, compared to the OECD average of 15 percent.
  7. Civic Engagement: When people are more satisfied, their life expectancy increases. The German government has a “strong youth policy infrastructure,” in which it gives younger generations higher importance. This means to allow people to feel involved in their community and be much happier. In recent German elections, estimates determined voter turnout as 76 percent, which was much higher than the OECD average of 68 percent.
  8. Housing: Clean and safe living conditions determine whether people can have healthy lives. German households have an average of 1.8 people per room, which is in line with the OECD standard. The government launched a program to expand housing in 1993 and it modified 1.1 million units. In fact, 99.8 percent of every household unit in Germany has access to a private indoor flushing toilet.
  9. Personal Security: Another factor that determines life expectancy is personal security. While organized crime was a major hazard in the streets of Germany, the police have conducted a major crackdown on Middle Eastern crime families. Before the police crackdown occurred, “The streets are [were] actually regarded as a separate territory. Outsiders are [were] physically assaulted, robbed and harassed.” The homicide rate in Germany is at 0.5, whereas the average of the OECD 3.7.
  10. Cardiovascular Disease: As the leading cause of death in Germany, cardiovascular disease takes a large toll on the population. In fact, cardiovascular disease caused 92 percent of deaths in 2018 for people 65 and older. In order to draw attention to current research, the government gave the German Heart Center of the State of Bavaria membership in the German Center for Cardiovascular Research. The German Heart Center of the State of Bavaria is the leading center in Germany for therapeutic interventions and treatments. By giving the Center membership in the German Center for Cardiovascular Research, it will receive more funding and opportunities to continue its research.

These 10 facts about life expectancy in Germany go well beyond a person’s living conditions, health, happiness or education. In fact, the German government has demonstrated its role in ensuring that people are living their lives to the fullest.

– Haarika Gurivireddygari
Photo: Flickr

history of the Berlin Blockade
On June 24, 1948, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) cut off land access and power to West Berlin. This act hoped to discredit the U.S. by stranding 2.5 million war-weary people in the American sector without food. American attempts to breach the blockade might have resulted in war, so the Truman Administration circumvented the USSR by airlifting supplies into the city for almost a year. It was a major success. The history of the Berlin Blockade displayed the power of emergency aid and set a precedent for countless American airlift operations.

The Blockade Begins

Following World War II, Germany and Berlin split into Eastern and Western entities. England, France and the U.S. controlled the Western sectors, while the USSR administered the East. Unfortunately, the entire city of Berlin was in East Germany. The Western powers signaled West German autonomy in 1948 by instituting currency reform in their sectors.

The Soviets feared an independent Germany as a threat to its nation’s security. Dr. Armin Grunbacher adds that Soviet leaders wanted to force America to relinquish control of Berlin and discredit them as the Cold War began. The USSR increasingly provoked the West to try and achieve its goals as June 1948 approached. Tensions especially grew during the April Crisis.

A U.S. Army historical report recounts that Soviet provocations led all parties closer to war. On April 5, 1948, a patrolling Soviet jet collided with a British passenger aircraft over Germany and killed everyone on board. The Soviets finally blockaded West Berlin in June 1948, sending American leaders into a panic. Officials questioned if America should risk war with military incursions into Berlin or if there was a better option.

The Airlift

West Berliners desperately required supplies. Residents rationed food, but some still starved. Soviet ration cards enticed 20,000 individuals to go to East Berlin.

President Truman curtailed initial plans by West Germany’s military administrator, General Lucius Clay, to forcefully supply the city with an armed convoy. It was inefficient and could potentially start a major war. Instead, the Truman Administration ordered Clay to gather American transport aircrafts from around the world for an upcoming humanitarian aid operation. General Curtis LeMay ran Operation Vittles and started airlifting 5,000 tons of supplies every day into West Berlin starting on July 1, 1948.

The Airlift’s Success

The U.S. needed to airlift at least 2,000 tons of aid daily to feed everyone. By the end of the airlift, American planes delivered 13,000 tons every day to West Berliners. The breadth of planes utilized and supplies dropped still makes the Berlin Airlift the largest operation of its kind. The success of the aid humiliated the Soviet dictator, Joseph Stalin, and the blockade ended on May 12, 1949.

The U.S. not only saved the lives of millions of people but displayed its immense generosity. Dr. Grunbacher says that the history of the Berlin Blockade showed “the manifested expression of U.S. technical superiority and willingness to defend the ‘Free World.’”

Later Operations

Many airlifts have followed the example of Operation Vittles. A report from the U.S. Air Force accounts for 560 such humanitarian operations between 1947 and 1994. America used emergency assistance to respond to both natural disasters and humanitarian crises in this period.

For example, the 1977 Turkish earthquake killed 3,600 people and left 50,000 homeless. The USAF was quick to respond and airlifted 606 tons of tents, blankets and food to accommodate those affected. The U.S. also participated in the 1994 Rwandan Genocide Relief, nicknamed Operation Support Hope. U.S. planes deposited 3,600 tons of supplies at refugee camps in neighboring nations for fleeing Rwandan refugees.

The history of the Berlin Blockade resonated as late as 2014 when the U.S. airlifted food and water to Yazidi Christians trapped on Mt. Sinjar in Iraq. The Islamic State had assaulted surrounding villages in the area and massacred members of the ethnoreligious minority. American intervention bought the Yazidis vital time. More than 114,000 meals and 35,000 gallons of water dropped sustained Yazidis until most escaped the mountain.

The history of the Berlin Blockade displayed the potential for emergency aid to assist millions of people and avoid violent conflict. It also showed that the reputation of the U.S. benefits from humanitarian operations. The precedent set in 1948 spawns new operations every year and it shows no sign of stopping.

– Sean Galli
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

mRNA VaccinesVaccinations have been one of the most successful disease prevention tools the world has ever seen to date; the rise of vaccinations and a decrease in disease mortality go hand in hand. The World Health Organization is cited stating that vaccinations prevent about six million deaths worldwide every year. That number could increase if a new type of vaccine, an mRNA vaccine, proves effective.

Some of the more impoverished nations of the world encounter a variety of setbacks when trying to implement vaccinations on a wide scale. Some populations simply cannot afford vaccines while others living in rural areas may not have access or transportation to reach a medical facility. Further, others still may live in unsanitary environments that allow pathogens to easily thrive and spread throughout their communities. Fortunately, scientists in Germany have been testing mRNA vaccines that could have the possibility of eliminating some of these issues.

Testing mRNA Vaccines

Last year, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation partnered with CureVac and BioNTech (two biotechnology corporations) to experiment with new ways to make vaccines. These new vaccines utilize the body’s naturally administered mRNA, which are the molecules that turn genetic information into proteins. In 2018, the companies found positive results while testing these vaccines on both small and large animals.

Later that year, mRNA vaccines designed to combat rabies began phase I of their testing on human participants. The testing took place in Germany and involved 130 participants who had not yet received a rabies vaccine in their lifetime. Then the results of the mRNA vaccine were compared with the results of another treatment.

“The first study participant enrolled in this rabies clinical trial is a significant milestone for CureVac, and allows the company to demonstrate its ability to trigger an immune response in vaccine naïve populations, which is different from vaccines just boosting an already existing immune response such as a flu vaccination,” explained Dan Menichella, CureVac’s CEO.

Implications of mRNA Vaccines

Though the study is not expected to be fully completed until 2021, researchers are finding that mRNA vaccines may be potentially more durable than standard versions of preventative vaccines.

If that is proven to be the case, the implications of how these new vaccines could help the world’s poor are huge. The mRNA vaccines would be able to be developed quickly—quickly enough, it is speculated, to respond to grave infectious disease outbreaks like Ebola. They would also be considerably cheaper to manufacture. And while most vaccination plants cannot be renovated or repurposed to produce other vaccines, only one mRNA vaccine plant could create multiple vaccines that target different diseases.

While mRNA vaccines still have a long way to go in the way of human testing and production, they seem to be off to a good start. It may one day completely revolutionize the way developing countries—or any country, for that matter—vaccinate. And although the medical field is a complicated one, one thing is for certain: CureVac and BioNTech are companies everyone should keep their eyes on for future breakthroughs.

– Haley Hiday
Photo: Flickr