DEG-financed companies all over the world are affected by the impacts of the pandemic. To mitigate the effects locally, and prudently support its customers through the crisis, the KfW subsidiary has developed various COVID response measures. Three reports from Central and South America and North Africa.
Emergency medicine for Peru
Peru has been hit hard by the coronavirus, and many doctors and nurses are also infected. In the regional hospital of the city of Iquitos in the tropical rainforest, 15 out of 40 doctors have died from COVID-19. Both in the hospitals and when patients are transported, there is often a lack of effective measures to contain the infections.
In 2018, we began establishing the competence centre for emergency services and air rescue in Lima with support from DEG, using funds from the develoPPP.de programme of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development. We originally started it due to the many people severely injured in bus accidents. And the centre is now ready, exactly when it is urgently needed to fight the coronavirus! In addition to highly qualified rescue personnel, we also train people who can provide support in the treatment of coronavirus patients. They share the knowledge they learn with up to 100,000 colleagues.
With support from DEG, we were able to secure special aid from the competence centre to assist with the coronavirus problem: at the end of May we flew in 50 ventilators from Germany. They were brought immediately from the airport to the hospitals, where there were massive shortages. Our training courses provide knowledge about the targeted treatment and intensive care transport of coronavirus patients. For example, people are often placed on ventilation too early, then the patients suffer subsequent complications. And many pilots even refused to fly coronavirus patients! Over a third of Peruvians live in areas that are very difficult to access. If someone becomes critically ill, they need to be flown out – or they die. Now sheets hermetically shield the pilot area from that of the treatment personnel. This prevents the virus from spreading during transport.
Perhaps our measures will make a small contribution to reducing the number of new infections.
Securing jobs in Tunisia
Kaschke Components GmbH develops and produces customer-specific inductive construction elements that are used in electrical circuits, including those of industrial robots, washing machines and electric cars, or in medical technology. We have been manufacturing in Tunisia for over 40 years. We currently have five factories there with a total of 1,800 employees. 90 percent are women who, to some extent, have been part of the “Kaschke family” for two generations now.
At the end of February everything was still running as normal in Tunisia. When it became clear that the coronavirus was also becoming visible there, the Tunisian government ordered a shutdown on 16 March. From one day to the next, all companies had to stop their activities. Foreign companies were obligated to pay all employees’ salaries and wages in full, as Tunisia does not have wage-replacement benefits. The shutdown ended at the beginning of June. During this time, the loan via AfricaConnect – a DEG programme that supports European companies as they invest in Africa – was a blessing. Otherwise we would not have been able to keep our 900 temporary workers in the company; they would not have received money for two months. These women feed their families and rely on their jobs. The loan enabled us to continue paying all salaries. With 1,800 employees, the payroll quickly adds up to EUR 1-2 million.
Until now, as a mid-sized company, we had not received a loan for Tunisia – not even through a federal guarantee that would have secured the banks against major risks abroad. We always needed to pull funds for investments from our liquid assets in Germany. To remain competitive in Tunisia, we need to invest a lot. We train employees and create new jobs. We received our first real support from AfricaConnect and DEG. This trust and flexibility when using the loan in the midst of such a major crisis really helped us continue providing a livelihood for our employees.
Protection for harvest workers in Costa Rica
At our branch office in Costa Rica, we produce and process fresh organic ginger and turmeric, then export them to Europe. The producers are small farmers in the region. They farm a total of 35 hectares of land. We support them in organic farming and make purchase commitments – since 2018 this has also been promoted within the context of a develoPPP.de project with DEG. When the coronavirus outbreak began, DEG offered us additional assistance. On our own we would not have been able to provide security for our workers in the form we can now.
The situation in Costa Rica is dramatic and La Fortuna is currently surrounded by coronavirus hotspots. Many Nicaraguans cross the nearby border into Costa Rica to find work here or visit relatives. But the virus is raging in Nicaragua. It’s not the fault of the people, the government isn’t taking it seriously. The harvest workers of our small farmers and the women in the packing station are also from Nicaragua.
With the help of DEG we were able to implement expensive protection measures like converting the packing station, private transportation options, and building guest houses. And of course, we are now in the position of providing hygienic equipment. One employee visits the workers at home, distributes masks and ensures that there is soap and disinfectant. We have been fortunate so far: some of our workers have been in quarantine, but we have not had any positive cases yet.
Many people in Costa Rica have lost their jobs due to the coronavirus crisis. They became destitute from one day to the next. For us, continuing to work has become elaborate and expensive, but also thanks to the support from DEG we did not have to lay anyone off. Our workers are often the only people in their extended family that are earning any money at all. Their 60 salaries now need to feed over 600 people.
Published on KfW Stories: 29 October 2020.