Viruses know no borders – taking a global health perspective

Jul 17, 2017

Good health plays a crucial part in enabling a country to develop in a sustainable way. In order to improve people’s health situation, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH is working to enhance health services and support the introduction of health insurance.

German Health Minister Gröhe at GIZ panel discussion Enlarge image German Health Minister Gröhe at GIZ panel discussion (© Thilo Rückeis)

On behalf of the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), GIZ has put together an Epidemic Preparedness Team, which it also coordinates. GIZ works closely with specialists from the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine and the Robert Koch Institute to select the experts for each mission.

The new team provides support to ensure that countries are better prepared for outbreaks of deadly diseases and can respond more quickly to them. Almost every day outbreaks of serious infectious diseases occur somewhere in the world. If they are discovered too late, not identified or misdiagnosed, then they can cost many people their lives. For example in West Africa, where in 2014 and 2015 more than 10,000 people died as a result of Ebola.

The Epidemic Preparedness Team has already been able to provide practical support in tackling one infectious disease: on its first deployment to Togo in 2016, the team put in place a system for diagnosing Lassa fever and trained both laboratory personnel and health workers. In March 2017 there was an outbreak of the illness. The laboratory was able to make the correct diagnosis within a very short period of time so that steps could be taken to contain the outbreak immediately.

At a joint event with Der Tagesspiegel focusing on global health on 5 July 2017, Tanja Gönner, Chair of GIZ’s Management Board, said that health is becoming an increasingly important issue for GIZ. ‘Health systems need to be improved. And it just so happens that capacity building is one of Germany’s strengths,’ she explained. GIZ is working to achieve this goal on behalf of the German Government and other commissioning parties. At the event, which was entitled ‘Viruses know no borders’, Tanja Gönner, Hermann Gröhe, the German Minister of Health, and Lothar Wieler, the President of the Robert Koch Institute, discussed what Germany is doing to counter the problem of global epidemics. Minister of Health Gröhe emphasised that: ‘At this moment in time the world isn’t sufficiently prepared for international health risks. Therefore Germany has put global health on the agenda at the G7 and G20 summits.’

The importance of the issue is also underpinned by some key figures: thanks to GIZ’s support, between 2010 and 2015, more than 120 million people worldwide benefited from improved health services and more than 300 million people received better health insurance.


Development and Global Health

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Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH

The GIZ is responsible for implementing the German government's development policy projects and programs. It was formed in late 2010, from the merger of the German development agencies GTZ (German Technical Cooperation), DED (German Development Service) and InWEnt (Capacity Building International).