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

poverty relief reduces disease
The universal rise in global living standards has helped combat diseases, spurred on by international poverty relief efforts. In fact, one study found that reducing poverty was just as effective as medicine in reducing tuberculosis. Poor health drains an individual’s ability to provide for themselves and others, trapping and perpetuating a cycle of poverty. Better public health increases workforce productivity, educational attainment and societal stability. Here are 5 ways poverty relief reduces disease.

5 Ways Poverty Relief Reduces Disease

  1. Better Sanitation: According to the WHO, approximately 827,000 people die each year due to “inadequate water, sanitation, and hygiene.” Poor sanitation is linked to the spread of crippling and lethal diseases such as cholera and polio, which hamper a nation’s development. By investing in the sanitation of developing nations, the rate of disease decreases and the food supply improves. Furthermore, an all around healthier society emerges that can contribute more to the global economy. In fact, a 2012 WHO study found that “for every U.S. $1.00 invested in sanitation, there was a return of U.S. $5.50 in lower health costs, more productivity, and fewer premature deaths.”
  2. Improved Health Care Industries: A hallmark of any developed nation is the quality of its health care industry. A key part of reducing poverty and improving health, is investing in health care initiatives in developing countries. When the health care industry is lacking (or even non-existent), the population experiences high levels of disease, poverty and death. Many American companies have already invested millions into the medical sectors of developing nations, however. In September 2015, General Electric Healthcare created the Sustainable Healthcare Solutions, a business unit that donates millions in money and medical equipment to developing nations.
  3. More Informative Education: Knowledge is power when it comes to fighting disease. Educational institutions provide a nation with one of the best tools to fight diseases of all kinds. According to a WHO report, “education emphasizing health prevention and informed self-help is among the most effective ways of empowering the poor to take charge of their own lives.” Schools must teach about proper sanitation, how to spot warning signs and form healthy behaviors. School health programs are also an invaluable resource in times of pandemics and disease outbreaks, as they coordinate with governments. This cooperation has helped tackle diseases, including HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa. Eritrea, for example, has one of the lowest rates of infection in the region (less than 1%), partially due to an increase in HIV/AIDS education measures.
  4. Enhanced Nutrition: Malnutrition and food insecurity weaken the immune systems of the impoverished and significantly lower one’s quality of life. Millions of children each year die from famine or end up crippled due to dietary deficiencies. By investing in and supporting agricultural sectors of developing nations, aid programs help in not only decreasing poverty, but also in cutting down on illness of all kinds. Likewise, international aid during conflicts and natural disasters is crucial to ensuring the continued health and productivity of a country. One nation combating such an issue is Tanzania. With the help of aid organizations like UNICEF, Tanzania has decreased malnutrition for children under five.
  5. More Effective Government Services: Arguably encompassing all the previous categories, governments with more money and resources can effectively help stop diseases. A healthy general population leads to more productivity, which increases tax revenue. Central governments can then invest that money back into health care and sanitation, creating a positive feedback loop. Governments also provide a centralized authority that can cooperate with organizations like the WHO. In the 21st century, communication and cooperation between world governments is key to halting pandemics and working on cures.

Impact on COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic is a prime example of how improved government resources provide poverty relief, which helps combat the virus in the developing world. Kenya is a good example of how developing nations can help contain and combat the virus with effective government actions. The systems and governmental services built up over past decades sprang into action and coordinated with organizations like the WHO. The government has also implemented various economic measures to help mitigate the negative economic side-effects. Moving forward, it is essential that governments and humanitarian organizations continue to take into account the importance of poverty relief for disease reduction.

– Malcolm Schulz 
Photo: Flickr