Bulletin: rapid and local solutions for the coronavirus pandemic

To help stop the spread of the coronavirus, GIZ is developing new ideas and refocusing existing projects. It is taking a wide variety of approaches.

On behalf of the German Government, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH is providing support in the global fight against the coronavirus pandemic. Here is an overview of current measures in our countries of assignment. We will be updating the overview regularly.


Diaspora against the coronavirus: GIZ supports project ideas

Especially in times of the coronavirus pandemic, migrants living in Germany want to support their countries of origin with their knowledge and their ideas. That is why GIZ’s special tender “diaspora against the coronavirus” supports project ideas in the areas of health, medicine and hygiene that are contributing to overcome the challenges of the pandemic. The tender is valid for Albania, Cameroon, Colombia, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Georgia, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Kenya, Kosovo, Morocco, Nepal, Nigeria, the Palestinian Territories, Peru, Senegal, Serbia, Tunisia, Ukraine and Viet Nam. On behalf of Germany’s Federal Development Ministry (BMZ), GIZ, since 2011, has been supporting projects that are jointly designed by so called diaspora organisations and local partners and are implemented on-site in the partner countries.

Find about more about the work done by diaspora organisations here


Safer farming in the fields

With direct contact with farmers no longer an option, two projects in Ethiopia are resorting to unconventional methods: a new radio channel has already reached half a million of them, telling them how they can protect themselves against the coronavirus – especially during the growing season, which is set to start in June. Advice on cultivation that would usually be provided out in the fields is also now being delivered via the radio. The channel is currently being broadcast in the Amhara region in collaboration with a local media agency and the projects are planning to extend the campaign to the Oromia and Tigray regions. The Green Innovation Centre in Ethiopia has also produced 30,000 posters and 3,000 flyers to be distributed in rural areas, featuring information on precautions to take against COVID-19. The two projects are part of the One World – No Hunger Initiative run by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).


Reusable masks prevent a mountain of waste

Albania will open its schools to classes doing their final exams at the end of May. In eight partner towns and municipalities, to help pupils protect themselves against infection when preparing for the tests, they will each receive two reusable respiratory masks. So far, 12,000 of the masks have been distributed to municipal workers and staff who perform key fundamental tasks such as supplying water or cleaning towns during the pandemic and who are unable to work from home. The main success story is that the cotton masks distributed so far are already replacing more than 350,000 disposable masks every month – and are therefore eliminating a lot of waste. This is particularly important in a country where the structure for disposing of and recycling waste correctly is still under construction with GIZ’s support (on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, BMZ). The masks, which can be cleaned using hot water or in the microwave, are produced by a local textile company. The project has enabled the company to avoid dismissing half of its staff due to the crisis and it has now made initial deliveries of masks to Germany.


Improving the treatment of highly infectious diseases

BMZ commissioned GIZ in 2016 to support the Government of Liberia in building a resilient health system following the outbreak of Ebola – among other things by expanding laboratory capacity, strengthening disease surveillance systems and improving the treatment of highly infectious diseases. During the coronavirus pandemic, GIZ supports the National Public Health Institute of Liberia (NPHIL), the Ministry of Health and regional health teams to diagnose and treat cases of COVID-19 lung disease immediately and to trace contacts in quick time. "The aim of the project was to make Liberia better prepared for highly infectious diseases, says project manager Damien Bishop. "That's why we were able to act so quickly now. We were in the right place at the right time with the right expertise". For example, three new ambulances were recently donated as part of a strategy to ensure that the integrated isolation unit (inSITU) could function as a regional treatment center for infectious diseases, including CoVID. In addition, as in Malawi and other African countries (read more here), the project has trained health workers on managing highly infectious diseases and good practice in infection prevention and control and educates the population about the risk of infection and the importance of seeking medical attention for infectious diseases early. 


Vamos! Keeping children in Latin America fit – digital sports lessons with ALBA Berlin

The coronavirus pandemic has severely restricted the freedom of movement of children and young people. In development cooperation countries, children are dealing with difficult living conditions anyway and the current situation has hit them particularly hard. To encourage young people to still take regular exercise, GIZ and the basketball club ALBA Berlin have produced three videos in Spanish that provide a kind of daily sports lesson. They reach children in Colombia, Ecuador and Paraguay via social media. The videos feature Colombian trainers and youth coaches from ALBA Berlin, who demonstrate various exercises and give age-appropriate tips on healthy nutrition. Children and teenagers can take part easily from home.

GIZ has been providing instruction in the Sport for Development approach in Colombia on behalf of the German Development Ministry (BMZ) since 2015. In addition to promoting physical activity, the focus is on preventing violence, supporting peaceful conflict resolution and reintegrating internally displaced people.

You can watch the videos on YouTube (in Spanish).



New ideas against the pandemic

With the WIDU.africa platform, GIZ supports small enterprises in Africa on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). Members of the Cameroonian and Ghanaian diaspora in Germany can apply for funding here together with companies from their countries of origin. If the application is successful, they receive a business coaching as well as financial support to their own financial investments. The areas of health, nutrition and transport now play a particularly important role in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. Proposals from these three sectors can receive financial support even without an investment from the diaspora if they make a direct contribution to mitigating the effects of the corona pandemic in Ghana and Cameroon

You can read more about this here.


Supporting hospitals and communities along migration routes

Niger is an important migration hub in Western Africa. Every year, hundreds of thousands traverse the Sahel country in their quest for work, security and better living conditions. Communities have a hard time providing sufficient health care for migrants, refugees and the local population, however. The coronavirus pandemic is exacerbating this already tight situation. In response, GIZ has quickly provided over 25 hospitals and local health centres along the migration routes with 100,000 masks and protective gloves each, as well as 21,000 bars of soap, 300 handwashing stations and 250 thermometers and pairs of protective glasses to help protect medical personnel and patients from contracting the disease. GIZ is also helping community employees educate the population, migrants and refugees about risks and preventive measures. For their work, GIZ is supporting the production of radio programmes and informational material in various languages. On behalf of the German Development Ministry (BMZ) and cofinanced by the European Union (EU), GIZ is supporting communities in expanding their water, educational and health systems and strengthening the local economy.


Making business ideas for fighting the coronavirus market-ready

The challenges posed by the coronavirus call for quick and effective solutions, especially in developing countries and emerging economies. The lab of tomorrow (lot) run by GIZ on behalf of the German Development Ministry (BMZ) is offering an innovative process for developing new business ideas related to tackling the virus. In a concise, purely digital format, interdisciplinary teams are developing sustainable business-driven solutions in response to the crisis that can be launched quickly. GIZ provides professional coaching and supports piloting. To access important information about the lab of tomorrow and COVID-19, go to www.lab-of-tomorrow.com/covid-19.


Online business opportunities platform adds a COVID-19 focus

Leverist.de is an online portal operated by GIZ on behalf of the German Government that facilitates collaboration between the private sector and development cooperation. The idea behind the platform is to match entrepreneurial solutions with challenges in developing countries and emerging economies. Effective immediately, companies and international development stakeholders will be able to find specific needs and solutions related to the ongoing crisis compiled on a dedicated COVID-19 page. For example, in Namibia, partner companies are needed for the distribution of hygiene products in southern Africa, and in Rwanda, the search is on for partners to assist with the further development of a COVID-19 information platform. For more information and to view current business opportunities, go to: https://www.leverist.de/covid19.


Climate protection through digital channels

The C40 Cities Finance Facility (CFF) is a joint initiative of the climate protection cities network C40 and GIZ. During the coronavirus pandemic, it ensures that public authorities can digitally promote projects against global warming. On behalf of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and co-financed by international partners, CFF is implementing a total of 19 ambitious climate protection projects in 17 cities across three continents.

You can read more about this here.


Systematic and safe waste management in times of a global pandemic

The coronavirus has led to new challenges for the waste management sector, as medical waste as well as infected household waste require new methods of disposal. As Covid-19 outbreak eased its grip on China, GIZ’s China Integrated Waste Management NAMA Support Project (IWM NSP) has analysed local responses to the pandemic in several cities and provinces. In Suzhou, a municipality in Eastern China with a total of population of 10.7 million people, more than 11,000 special garbage bins for discarded face masks were set up. The city ensured separate collection, transportation and treatment of these masks assigning personnel, vehicles and facilities specifically for this task to minimise the risk of secondary contamination. Public areas and lavatories were also disinfected several times a day.

You can read more on the efforts of Chinese cities and the role of IWM NSP in transforming Chinese waste sector here.



Rapid assistance by experts

The Epidemic Preparedness Team (SEEG) is able to respond to outbreaks rapidly and flexibly. It is currently supporting laboratories in developing and emerging-market countries focusing in particular on training staff in correctly diagnosing Covid-19. In Namibia, SEEG helped to establish laboratory diagnostics for Covid-19 at the national reference laboratory, in Benin it supported the work to quickly build up greater laboratory capacity. Staff in both countries was also trained in carrying out tests. Additional assignments, also including Latin America, are currently being planned. The Epidemic Preparedness Team was founded as a response to the Ebola epidemic in Western Africa on behalf of the German Development Ministry (BMZ) and the German Health Ministry (BMG). The core team is based at GIZ and cooperates with the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine (BNITM) and the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) to more rapidly detect and respond to outbreaks of infectious disease. Find out more about the team’s work in the interview with microbiologist Michael Nagel.


Safe disposals, smart testing

Covid-19 has led to large amounts of potentially infected waste and other materials accumulating in hospitals. In Nepal, on behalf of the German Development Ministry (BMZ), GIZ has developed standards for an orderly and environmentally friendly way of disposing these materials. The standards have been adopted in 13 hospitals that are specialised in fighting Covid-19. GIZ is also supporting hospitals in using the limited test capacities. An early warning and reporting system helps to direct the usage of the tests. Read more here.


Using Facebook to combat fake news 

Reliable information is key to containing the pandemic. ‘In Cambodia, Facebook is by far the most widely used form of social media. On Facebook, in particular, we are seeing hysterical and false reports about how the coronavirus is transmitted, how to avoid it, and the complication rates,’ says project manager Bernd Appelt. GIZ, on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and in cooperation with the World Health Organization (WHO), is therefore supporting the Cambodian Ministry of Health in stemming false information and providing the population with comprehensive information via Facebook. Messages that address the rumours and fears that are circulating and explain the protection, diagnosis and treatment options are being developed on an ongoing basis.


Innovative, digital approaches to vocational training

How do trainees learn? Moldova’s dual vocational training system is built on digital courses. And it is now becoming clear just how important this is: despite being physically separated during the current lockdown, trainees are still able to stay in touch with their companies. ‘Trainers are finding innovative ways to teach their students, for example producing videos to show them how to work with different machines,’ explains project manager Oana Vodita. ‘Afterwards they discuss the video virtually with the group.’ On behalf of the German Development Ministry (BMZ) and with combined financing from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), GIZ has been supporting companies and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in improving the quality of in-company training in Moldova. This also includes using virtual methods, which are now playing a more prominent role in teaching practical skills. In addition to the formats already available, the vocational training project also offers webinars to advise trainees and teachers on how to structure their everyday lives to reflect the change to digital teaching. 600 trainees on seven dual training courses are already benefiting from these measures, which will now be extended to include other companies.

Another project supported four companies in adapting their production capacity to make medical protective clothing. This means that demand in Moldova can be better covered by local producers. You can read more about this here.


Happiness through music

Musicians from Jordan are playing together against the crisis. But the challenge is that everyone must play their part alone at home. The individual recordings are then combined and the final video is posted online – one song every week. ‘In these difficult times, we musicians have a mission in our community,’ says Ihssan Al-Maani from the Jordan Youth Orchestra. ‘A mission to spread joy and happiness through our music.’ The bassoon player’s orchestra struck the first chord in mid-April, and at least a dozen other Jordanian music groups are set to follow between now and July. GIZ’s SPACE regional project initiated the musical series and helps produce the videos on behalf of the German Development Ministry (BMZ). ‘The current situation is particularly difficult for young people, not only because their freedom of movement is limited, but also because they have hardly any opportunities for social participation,’ explains project manager Kayed Sagalla. The musicians receive a small fee to help ease the pressure during the lockdown in Jordan. You can watch their performances on YouTube and Facebook.



Assuring the quality of imported respirator masks

Germany urgently requires protective equipment such as respirator masks to contain the pandemic. Most of these are imported, with a quarter of the world’s masks produced in China. To acquire masks more quickly, the German authorities are temporarily accepting foreign safety certificates. But how can they ensure that the imported masks actually meet EU standards and that the Chinese certificates are genuine? On behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi), GIZ has been working in China and other countries since 2014 to improve the safety and quality of traded products. During the current pandemic, the company and its Chinese partners are carrying out checks for authorities from across Germany to determine whether the respirators on offer function as promised. Using guidelines it has drawn up, GIZ checks whether the inspection reports contain all the required information and whether the assessments are entered in the Chinese databases. The Chinese authorities then verify that the certificates are genuine.

Following a pilot phase with authorities in Lower Saxony, the service was rolled out across Germany in mid-April.


Recording new cases centrally

In early February, SORMAS (Surveillance Outbreak Response Management and Analysis System), the digital disease monitoring system added Covid-19 to the diseases it is tracking. It is currently being used in Nigeria and Ghana. The system also functions on mobile phones and facilitates the control of Covid-19 infections, especially in rural areas. Health staff can collect information about infected people and contact persons and pass on the information to health authorities in real time. These authorities can then quickly initiate counter measures, such as contact restrictions, to slow the spread of the disease. SORMAS was developed by the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research. On behalf of the BMZ and co-financed by the EU, GIZ has supported the transformation into an open-source tool, as well as the application of the system and its Covid-19 module in Nigeria and Ghana. Learn more here.


Protecting displaced persons

In Northern Iraq, more than 370,000 internally displaced persons and 83,000 Syrians who have fled the IS regime of terror live in the governorate of Duhok alone. Duhok and other host communities are at particular risk from the coronavirus pandemic. As project manager Gunnar Strote explains, ‘Comprehensive risk communication and preventive measures to slow the spread of the virus are really important for everyone – the local Kurdish population, those living in refugee camps and the medical staff caring for them.’ In response, GIZ has acted quickly to expand its continuing training provision. Working with the Italian NGO AISPO, it has provided wide-ranging training for almost 900 doctors, nurses and other hospital staff as of mid-April. One area of focus is on preventing infection, while another is on nursing, treating and, where necessary, ventilating those with the virus. On behalf of BMZ, GIZ has been supporting the regional government since 2016 in developing the region’s water supply and education and health systems.



Working together

In Georgia, GIZ has worked on behalf of the EU and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) to equip a start-up business with 12 additional sewing machines. Georgia’s Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development itself provided a further 32 machines. This has enabled the business to increase production, and it is now manufacturing several thousand items of protective clothing each day. Of the 70 people it employs, 50 are in newly created jobs.


Deep breaths – and laser technology

‘Yes we breathe’ is one of a number of emergency measures developed by the Digital Centre in Tunisia to combat the pandemic. A group led by 23-year-old engineering student Taja Grach from the National School of Engineering in Sousse (ENISo) rapidly developed a simple ventilator to help cope with the expected shortage of equipment in Tunisian hospitals. Doctors have approved the prototypes for use. As Grach proudly notes, ‘We passed all the tests with flying colours.’ This also applies to the protective visors he and his colleagues have designed for medical staff. They started out using 3-D printers to make the visors, but that took too long. Producing a new design and using laser technology, the group has now reduced the time it takes to produce a visor from 90 minutes to just two minutes. They are producing 300 visors a day for hospitals.

On behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), GIZ started creating the Digital Centre in Tunisia in late 2019 and provided a group of researchers and start-up companies with support in March. Within just a few days, the group designed a new diagnostic model based on artificial intelligence that uses x-ray images of the lung to detect Covid-19 infections caused by the coronavirus in just 15 seconds. Read more here.


A quiz to help prevent infection

Four GIZ colleagues successfully submitted an idea for a phone quiz to a German Government hackathon in late March. Their quiz helps prevent the spread of the coronavirus. It is a simple way of disseminating information about preventive measures, particularly in Africa, where only around a third of the population has an internet connection but most people have a mobile phone. As Lars Wannemacher explains, ‘The phone quiz works on the most basic of mobile phones. Callers ring a hotline and then use their phone keypad to navigate through a series of spoken quiz questions, like in a game.’ ‘Call vs. Corona’ is one of 20 initiatives selected from 1,500 suggestions put forward during the hackathon. This free service is particularly advantageous for people with poor literacy skills. Read more here.

Further Information