Infotmation and stories on Egypt

Water Scarcity
Many know Egypt, which connects Northeastern Africa and the Middle East, for its rivers and pyramids. Although it is rich in culture, Egypt faces a water scarcity issue. According to an article by the African Union Development Agency, Egypt’s Vision 2030 to “increase water supply across the country has primarily focused on enhancing sustainable energy generation and management and enabling innovation and scientific research towards enhancing water supply and distribution.” Technology to address water scarcity in Egypt aims to protect the environment, increase productivity and enhance human health.

The Problem of Egypt’s Water Scarcity

Egypt is currently facing a yearly water deficit of more than 7 billion cubic meters. The problem of insufficient water is further exacerbated by population growth, especially since Egypt’s population is expanding at a pace of 1.94%, equivalent to an annual increase of around 2 million individuals. Today, 92 million people reside in Egypt, marking a 41% increase since the 1990s, and the population will likely exceed 110 million over the next three years.

Recognizing the proportional relationship between population size and freshwater scarcity, this may heavily disrupt freshwater supply within the country. In fact, the Middle East and North African region as a whole, where Egypt is located, holds less than 2% of the world’s fresh water. The Nile river, a vital source of natural and freshwater in Egypt, is increasingly becoming a source of disease, due to the amount of pollution it endures annually. According to the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, 4.5 million tons of pollutants permeate the Nile each year. This includes sewage, agricultural waste and industrial waste.

Implementation

Egypt has embraced some of the most cutting-edge digital and smart water technologies to address issues pertinent to water scarcity. Through water treatment and desalination, such technologies aim to protect current water sources and bodies, while also boosting water supply. Egypt has created several desalination technologies, to facilitate the transformation of seawater into potable water to enhance water supply. The process of seawater desalination involves evaporating, condensing, and then cooling via the distillation process in that respective order. Through this process, people can use the newly treated water for human consumption and agricultural purposes. Today, Egypt retains a daily freshwater capacity of 800,000 cubic meters in line with 2022 records, and the Egyptian government aspires to achieve 6.4 million cubic meters by 2050.

However, the seawater desalination method traditionally used in Egypt is expensive, as it requires a significant amount of energy. To overcome this issue, Egypt adopted membrane technology to desalinate seawater affordably and cost-effectively. Additionally, such technology can help with several other processes, including pervaporation, reverse osmosis, forward osmosis, nanofiltration and ultrafiltration.

To further enhance the output of water treatment that is possible through membrane technology, and without sacrificing the quality of water, scientists are investigating nanotechnology. Nanotechnology works to increase water permeability and remove pollutants from both wastewater and seawater, while also cost-effectively intensifying water supply output.

A Promising Future

Improving access to clean water remains a top and crucial priority to maintain human welfare in Egypt and the entire African continent. By creating effective water management systems, and boosting water supply through water treatment and desalination, Egypt can effectively address the water shortage. Such endeavors can ease the burden on Egyptians who lack access to clean water, reduce their susceptibility to diseases, and ultimately improve their quality of life.

– Frema Mensah
Photo: Flickr

Inflation in EgyptIn 2022, inflation has been sweeping across the world like wildfire, and it has impacted the world’s impoverished the most severely. Here is some information about inflation in Egypt.

Inflation on the Rise

Inflation in Egypt rose to 13% in June 2022 from 11% in April 2022, after only seeing an inflation rate of 4.8% at the end of 2021. The Ukrainian war caused an increase in costs of goods which also caused the interest rates in the country to rise. These interest rates were already some of the highest in the world before the increase. These increases in the costs of imported and exported goods have made it much more challenging for the working class of the country to make a living.

There has been an increase in the prices of simple goods like bread, rice and sugar, making it hard for families to sustain themselves, and even things like nuts have moved into the category of luxury for most families. Inflation has affected individual families and Egypt’s economy as a whole as Egypt’s purchasing index contracted for the 18th consecutive month in May which is what caused the country to raise the interest rates for the first time since 2017. This has put a strain on small business owners who sell goods to survive because they no longer can afford to buy the product that they sell.

Humanitarian Impact

The U.S. has donated $30 billion in economic aid to Egypt since 1978 in order to provide stability to the region. USAID’s current plan to help the economy is to reduce the rising cost of food in Egypt. U.S. aid to Egypt reduced by 85% from 1998-2020 from $833 million to $125 million in 2020, however, the Biden Administration has requested $1.43 billion in aid for Egypt in 2022 amid the pandemic and the Ukrainian war.

The world cannot control what goes on in terms of the Russian and Ukrainian war, so the Goal of USAID is to impact the country in as many ways as possible from within. As of April 2022, the Biden Administrations’ funds are to go toward creating more and better jobs and enhancing the role of government officials to help the institutions of Egypt meet the economic needs of their people. Inflation in Egypt has been the cause of many people losing their jobs and so plans created to foster the economy are very relevant and should prove useful. Hundreds of thousands of jobs have emerged since 1978 in Egypt due to U.S. involvement, and that growth could be beneficial to combating inflation in Egypt.

Looking Ahead

The inflation crisis in Egypt is far from over, but the world is taking the proper steps in order to attempt to turn the tides. It may take months or years for one to be able to see the impact of the funds that Egypt received, however, the people of Egypt know that their struggle is not going unnoticed and that can be the spark someone needs to keep pushing for a little bit longer.

– Alex Peterson
Photo: Flickr

Effects of Water Pollution in Egypt
Since the days of the pharaoh, the Nile River has long served as the heart of the Egyptian community and provided 97% of the country’s water. However, currently, the Nile River is in a dire state due to massive strain from pollution and changing weather patterns. Being the lifeline of the nation, the state of the Nile River is not only symbolic of the current state of Egypt but all the water supply that runs through the city. The effects of water pollution in Egypt are now impacting the entire country and making it harder to access clean water.

Water Pollution in Egypt

To call the effects of water pollution in Egypt pernicious is an understatement, as the country has continued its struggle to access clean water. Being that most of Egypt depends on the Nile as its source of water, the fact that the river is being continuously contaminated with overwhelming amounts of items such as discharge, toxic chemicals, fertilizer residue, radioactive waste and oil pollution is truly horrific and dangerously deadly.

Another large cause of pollution in the water of Egypt can relate to certain Egyptian traditions. These customs include ridding their waste by casting it into the river while bathing and cleaning their animals in this same river water. These effects lead to mass breakouts of diseases, such as schistosomes, according to Save The Water.

In northern parts of Egypt, many citizens gain their water access from the Mediterranean Sea. However, according to Dr. Abu Alaa Abdel Moneim in his studies on the Mediterranean Sea, “720,000,000 tons of sewage, 142,000 tons of mineral oil, 66,000 tons of mercury, 4,200 tons of lead and 40,000 tons of phosphates” all end up in the sea, Save The Water reported. People then use this water for drinking and other daily activities, which can lead to illness, diseases and even death.

Facing Water Deficit

Another issue that plagues Egypt is its lack of rainfall. On average, Egypt receives less than 80 mm of rainfall a year and only 6% of the country is arable and agricultural land, with the rest being desert. The effect of this is large water wastage such as an outdated method of irrigation where farmers pump gallons of water over the crops.

The largest effect of water pollution in Egypt is the scarcity of water that it leads to. According to the 2021 UNICEF report, “Egypt is facing an annual water deficit of around 7 billion cubic meters to the mass pollution of Egypt’s water sources.” Later in the analysis, UNICEF stated that according to its projections, it is highly possible that the country could run out of clean water entirely by 2025. This would affect 1.8 billion people worldwide, who will be living in complete water scarcity.

Reaching a Stage of Water Poverty

In January 2022, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi declared that his beloved nation “has reached a stage of water poverty.” According to Mohamed Nasr al-Din Allam, who is a former Egyptian irrigation minister, “Water poverty, as defined by the World Bank, is when a country’s renewable internal freshwater resources per capita are less than 1,000 cubic meters annually.” This is the bare minimum to successfully meet the people’s needs for water and food. It has not been since 1991 that Egypt reported living with less than the minimum water share.

Although the current effects of water pollution in Egypt are dier, there are possible solutions that the government is implementing and are in place to assist the citizens. In August 2021, the Egyptian Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation revealed a four-step plan, which could assist in reducing the water crisis. The four-pronged strategy extends until 2050, with promises made to solve all water-related problems and effects of water pollution in Egypt, Al-Monitor reported.

With this plan in place, the water which flows through the Nile River appears a little clearer and the citizens of Egypt could soon be able to breathe a sigh of relief as well as drink a clean glass of water.

– Austin Hughes
Photo: Flickr

Gender Inequality in Egypt
Egypt is a country famous for its robust capital city and majestic monuments, reminiscent of the sophisticated ancient civilizations that it once cultivated. However, the country has struggled to alleviate gender disparities, and gender inequality in Egypt has placed its ranking 134th out of 153 countries according to the Global Gender Gap Index. Despite these numbers, Egypt has shown determination to eliminate gender discrimination domestically and worldwide by aiming to provide more representation globally.

Egypt’s Advancements

Egypt recently made substantial steps forward in representing women not only domestically, but worldwide. Dr. Maya Morsy, the President of Egypt’s National Council for Women, was elected to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women for 2023-2026. The Committee’s goal is to eliminate all forms of gender discrimination against women and uplift them by recognizing women’s rights through new laws and providing more opportunities. The Committee contains 23 members who are qualified experts in women’s issues.

Dr. Morsy’s significant accomplishment follows the Committee’s previous ruling in 2021 that Egypt would no longer be considered in a state of emergency and that the progress of eliminating gender inequality since 2010 showed great improvement in equality within Egyptian civil society.

Dr. Morsy presented the combined eighth to tenth periodic reports of Egypt to the Committee in 2021 and claimed the creation of a new era for eliminating gender discrimination began with the June 2014 election of President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi. With this election, women became a major focus of Egypt’s National Human Rights Strategy.

In the conclusion report that lifted Egypt from its state of emergency, the Committee praised new key national strategies for its contribution to alleviating gender inequality in Egypt, including acclaim for its 2014 Constitution. It created more opportunities for women in civil, social, political and economic sectors.

Gender Inequality in Egypt’s Workforce

The labor force of Egypt is predominantly male. In 2020, only 18% of women able to work participated in the labor force while 65% of working-age men participated, according to USAID.

According to the World Bank, Egypt-specific studies have predicted that the GDP would rise by 34% if the labor force participation of women was as high as men. GDP is a rough estimate of a country’s standard of living. Because of this, an increase of women in the workforce has a high potential to boost the Egyptian economy and reduce poverty.

The Egyptian Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics reported that the poverty rates between 2015 and 2018 rose dramatically from 27.8% to 32.5%. This hike in poverty led to the less general consumption of goods and services such as education and health care. Increasing the labor force participation rate of women could ultimately positively affect the economy of Egypt while also destigmatizing their presence in the workplace and civil society.

Stepping Forward

Egypt has made tremendous advances toward eliminating gender inequality within its country. The appointment of Dr. Maya Morsy to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women demonstrates Egypt’s dedication to the pivotal issue. Domestically, the creation of more freedoms, such as financial equality, broader property rights and universal access to reproductive health care is reflected in initiatives such as the National Strategy for the Empowerment of Egyptian Women for 2016-2030. In addition, the government saw an increase in the proportion of women in senior management positions to 24.1%.

In Egypt, the future of opportunity expansion for women, according to the current progress in eliminating gender discrimination, appears hopeful and experts such as Dr. Maya Morsy intend to enact change globally.

– Caroline Zientek
Photo: Flickr

Egypt’s Water Crisis
The once bountiful Nile River in Egypt is the victim of overpopulation in the nation, now barely reaching the Mediterranean Sea. The Nile serves as the main supply of water in Egypt, a source that now seems to be quickly drying up. The construction and use of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, or GERD, has dried the Nile River even further. The construction of the dam has received backlash from critics as it only exacerbates the depletion of the river even further, contributing to Egypt’s water crisis.

The combination of the dam, growing population and an ongoing drought leaves Egypt with the threat of complete water scarcity by 2025, putting the livelihoods of millions of farmers in danger. According to the World Bank, Egypt’s agriculture sector employs about a quarter of the 102.3 million population, with agriculture, forestry and fishing accounting for about 11% of the country’s GDP in 2020.

This, in turn, threatens the food supply of Egypt, further impoverishing an already impoverished country with a poverty rate of 32% as of 2020. Egypt’s water crisis has reached a dire point.

Causes of Egypt’s Water Crisis

Long periods of drought and an increasingly hot and arid climate have shrunk the Nile River, the main source of water in Egypt, an issue common for many water supplies all over the world. However, in development mostly unique to Egypt, the construction of a dam on the Nile River has shrunk the amount of available water even further.

The GERD has placed a large amount of strain on the already dwindling supply of water in the country. The GERD, completed in 2020, is the latest development in a dispute over the Nile’s fresh water basin, a water source essential to the survival of many Middle Eastern and North African countries. Ethiopia now appears to have the upper hand in this dispute, with the GERD granting Ethiopia access to a fairly stable amount of water, while restricting the access of other countries, including Egypt.

However, the most significant contributor to Egypt’s water crisis is the country’s population growth. Egypt’s population increases at a rate of around 2% per year. While that number may not sound like much, the constant and steady growth places a lot of stress on an already low amount of usable water. There is simply not enough to go around. The United Nations estimates that Egypt will reach the point of absolute scarcity by the year 2025, which many fear may mark the point of no return for the African nation.

The Impact of Water Scarcity

Beyond the obvious impact of Egypt’s water crisis on the everyday lives of people living within the country, the lack of water will cause large amounts of damage to Egypt’s food supply. The agriculture industry of the country supports nearly 50% of the nation’s population and uses 86% of the fresh water in Egypt, as of 2020. If Egypt were to reach the state of absolute scarcity, millions of people would be out of work, forcing a large portion of Egypt below the poverty line, not to mention the food insecurity that would also occur. In a country already struggling with poverty, less food and less water would only serve to make matters worse.

Taking Action

The Egyptian government is working to address Egypt’s water crisis. These efforts include the passing of the National Water Resources Plan in 2017 with an intention to contribute $50 billion worth of investments in the water sector by 2037. In 2020, Egypt committed to contributing $2.8 billion to increase its desalination capacity, so that it can convert greater amounts of salt water into fresh water. This offers a great renewable source of water. This combination of efforts offers some hope to the nation.

Egypt relies on aid from other countries and organizations around the world as well, remaining optimistic that help will come.

– Thomas Schneider
Photo: Unsplash

Women’s Political Participation in Egypt
Although the advancement of women’s rights in Egypt has faced barriers in the past, change is on the horizon. The World Economic Forum’s 2021 Global Gender Gap Report notes progress in terms of gender equality. In particular, Egypt has made advancements for women in politics. A closer look at the country’s policies and culture around women’s political participation in Egypt will show how Egypt has garnered such success and point to the areas still in need of improvement.

Electoral Quota System in Egypt

Women in Egypt gained suffrage and the right to run for election with the 1956 Constitution. Before the 1979 elections, Egypt implemented a quota of 30 seats (9% of total seats in the People’s Assembly) reserved for women. In 1984, 36 women held seats. Eventually, arguments arose against the quota and Egypt repealed it in 1987, leading to the decline of female representation down to just nine women out of the 454 members of the People’s Assembly (2%) from 2005 to 2010. Over the next few years, Egypt reinstated the quota system and repealed it again. In 2014, Egypt implemented a new quota system, which includes non-gender-related quotas.

In 2019, Egypt amended the constitution to reserve at least 25% of seats in parliament for women, leading to a dramatic rise in women’s political participation in Egypt. Women hold 162 seats in the new parliamentary term (2016-2021), making up 27% of parliament, marking the first time this percentage surpassed 15%. As a consequence, “Egypt now ranks 67th in the world for women’s representation.”

According to the Global Gender Gap Report of 2021, Egypt is one of three MENA (the Middle East and North Africa) countries that closed its Political Empowerment Gap between 20% and 22.7%, with all other countries at 15.1% or lower.

Voting Registration

Egypt now automatically registers voters once they turn 18, which has increased women’s voting turnout. Although voter registration is about even now, there remain certain barriers that women voters face before turning in their ballots. Egypt requires “a valid digital passport, a valid ID card, or an invalid ID card that bears a valid identification number.”

Although this seems protocol for most countries, women in Egypt face cultural challenges when presented with such requirements. Women are more unlikely to possess a valid ID card, and if they do have one, their husbands often hold onto the cards, which may prevent a woman from voting without her husband’s permission. In order to ensure women’s political participation in Egypt, Egypt must address these barriers.

UN Empowers Egyptian Women

Clearly, women are making great advances in the political realm in Egypt. Now, the challenge is to ensure women’s representation goes beyond tokenism. The quota system Egypt implemented will increase numbers, but ensuring women’s voices receive support goes beyond the election.

U.N. Women Egypt works to address all areas that impact women’s lives in Egypt. Past initiatives have dealt with educational opportunities, economic empowerment, violence against women and political participation. One example of U.N. Women Egypt’s advocacy for women’s political participation in Egypt is its work with the National Council for Women (NCW) and partners to issue ID cards for women. The cards have stamps with the slogan “Your ID, Your Right.”

Again, alongside the NCW, U.N. Women Egypt helped encourage women in 27 governorates to “vote and/or run for candidacy at the municipal level,” reaching 35,000 women. As time passes, the number of women in political representation continues to increase.

Despite cultural difficulties, Egypt is making obvious efforts to include women in its policymaking. As the nation’s efforts continue and women also rise up in the government, Egypt will move toward gender equality in its politics.

– Rachael So
Photo: Flickr

Food Crisis in Egypt
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 unleashed numerous consequences on the global economy, the domino effect of some of them still playing out. The increase in fuel prices in the wake of the invasion has received much media attention. However, a more overlooked consequence of the disruption of exports from both Russia and Ukraine is the detrimental effect on global food security, causing a global wheat shortage. The food crisis in Egypt has been a particular challenge.

Invasion and Wheat Exports

In 2019, Russia was the largest exporter of wheat in the world. According to the Observatory of Economic Complexity, Russia and Ukraine together produced 25.4% of global wheat exports. In addition to wheat, the Russian and Ukrainian markets are vital global sources for other essential food items such as corn, sugar and oil. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s monthly World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) report, the invasion could reduce wheat exports from Russia and Ukraine by 12%.

“Exports are lowered for Ukraine by four million tonnes to 20 million, as the conflict in that country is expected to disrupt exports from the Black Sea region,” according to the World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates report.

Food Prices Inflation

Global food prices had been already steadily inflating since the beginning of the pandemic due to disruptions to supply chains. The sudden blacklisting of Russian exports and the disruption of the Ukrainian economy have spiked this inflation in recent months, with the stock market value of global agricultural commodities sharply increasing. This sudden wheat shortage in an already inflated economy is beginning to detrimentally affect food security in many developing countries reliant on Russian and Ukraine exports, such as Egypt, Sudan and Kenya.

The Egyptian Wheat Shortage

Egypt, where bread is a staple food with almost every meal, is the world’s largest importer of wheat, spending $5.2 billion in 2020. In 2021, 80% of Egyptian wheat imports came from Russia and Ukraine. The war between the two countries has therefore had a massive effect on the Egyptian economy and food security. The price of wheat has increased by 44%, compounding the price hike to the subsidized cost of bread the government had announced only weeks prior to the start of the conflict.

Subsidizing Dilemma

The subsidizing of bread costs has long been an economic staple of successive Egyptian governments, and its price increase represents an existential shift for Egyptians, resulting in a food crisis in Egypt.

“Keeping bread affordable to the poor has for 60 years been something of an informal social contract between citizens and the political authority,” said Egyptian sociologist Ammar Ali Hassan. “The symbolism associated with the loaf of bread goes well beyond it being just a consumer item. In reality, it defines the bond between people and the state.” Indeed, many analysts point to the rising cost of food, particularly bread, as the breaking factor that sparked the Egyptian revolution of 2011. Therefore, the question of food security is also one of political security for both the Egyptian people and the government – and the global wheat shortage is pushing it into the forefront of Egyptian policy in 2022.

In the aftermath of the invasion, Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly stated that the government will go ahead with the price raise despite the global wheat shortage’s impact on imports. Madbouly pointed to the five-month worth of strategic wheat reserves as a stopgap measure. However, with the conflict not deescalating since it began, the Egyptian government is beginning to explore new alternatives to, in the short term, brave this global wheat shortage, and in the long term, lessen this dependence on food imports.

The Path to Self Sufficiency

On March 28, the Minister of Agriculture Ali Moselhi announced that the Egyptian government will seek to procure 6 million tonnes of wheat from local farmers during the upcoming wheat season between April and June, offering incentives to sell to the government rather than to the private sector. However, resolving challenges to wheat self-sufficiency in Egypt is not possible overnight.

The main challenge for the domestic agricultural industry to meet Egyptian demand and counter the current global wheat shortage is water scarcity. According to the Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation, 97% of Egypt’s water is sourced from the Nile at 54 billion cubic meters, well below the 114 billion annual demand of the country’s fast-growing population of 100 million.

Therefore, for Egypt to be able to develop the means to domestically produce wheat for its population, it must address its long-standing water scarcity issue – and it is here where international efforts and expertise can aid Egypt in its endeavor to combat food insecurity and poverty. “The water issue is a pivotal issue in the field of achieving sustainable development, which requires increased cooperation and exchange of experiences between different countries of the world in the field of water,” said Egyptian Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation Mohamed Abdel Atti.

The World Food Program (WFP) and the Food Crisis in Egypt

One existing avenue to aid in alleviating the food crisis in Egypt is through the United Nations World Food Program (WFP). Operating in Egypt since 1968, “the U.N. agency’s operations in Egypt are designed to respond to the country’s long-term food and nutrition insecurity.” In recent years, it has been collaborating with the Sisi government in achieving Egypt Vision 2030, a 10-pillar strategy toward sustainable political, economic and social development. Food security is to be a crucial factor to achieve in this 2030 vision and the WFP in Egypt currently collaborates with the Egyptian government to strengthen these public institutions.

The Future

First, the COVID-19 pandemic and now the sudden events in Ukraine have shown that developing countries cannot rely on supply chains for crucial commodities such as basic foodstuffs. In fact, this has long been an issue exacerbating world poverty and food insecurity even before the pandemic. While the Russian invasion of Ukraine has exacerbated food shortages around the world, it also presents an opportunity for countries long reliant on food imports to develop sustainable domestic resources to build new self-sufficient agricultural infrastructure and economic systems.

The United States and other global leaders in the international community must also seize this opportunity, providing financial aid and expertise to nation-building projects such as Egypt Vision 2030. In the short term, the immediate expansion of WFP operations in Egypt and other countries it operates in detrimentally by the Ukrainian conflict can allow these countries to set off on the path of food security while also mitigating the short term poverty and hunger the global wheat shortage could cause in 2022.

– Majeed Malhas
Photo: Flickr

Mental Health in Egypt
Increased levels of stress and fear due to the COVID-19 pandemic have led to a spike in mental health issues globally. Egypt is no exception to these mental health concerns, prompting the Egyptian government to take steps to address the subject of mental health in Egypt. For the country and its citizens, studies of mental health and mind date as far back as the Pharaonic era. Today, COVID-19 has prompted a revitalization of mental health awareness and solutions to better strengthen Egypt’s mental health care.

Mental Health in Numbers

A country-wide survey by Egypt’s Ministry of Health in 2018 indicates that 25% of Egyptians suffer from mental health issues. The Ministry of Health derived the data from a “random sample of 22,000  families” in Egypt. The survey noted a high prevalence of depression and anxiety conditions with anxiety impacting almost 44% of the population experiencing mental health issues. About 31% of Egyptians enduring mental health conditions are “suffering from depression that is linked to substance abuse.”

A 2020 study that Safaa M. El-Zoghby led aimed to uncover the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health in Egypt. Researchers gathered data between May 2, 2020, and May 9, 2020, from a survey of 510 Egyptian adults. The survey results indicated that 41.4% of respondents endured severe mental health impacts due to the stressors of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A lack of mental health awareness and high treatment costs prevent progress in the mental health arena. The societal stigma surrounding mental illness tends to discourage Egyptians from seeking out help for mental health conditions. Schizophrenia, for example, is one mental illness in Egypt that continues to hold significant stigma. In an interview with Al-Ahram Weekly, Egyptian-Canadian psychologist Rita Kallini has stated that society labels Egyptians suffering from schizophrenia as “crazy.” In addition, the Egyptian Journal of Psychiatry conducted a study in 2020 that indicates that almost 44% of 300 patients with diverse mental health conditions reported victimization in the past year.

History of Egyptian Mental Health

In Egypt’s ancient past, the country studied and documented mental health. Ancient Egyptians’ knowledge and awareness of “diseases of the mind” point to this, according to an article by Mervat Nasser, a senior lecturer in psychiatry at the University of Leicester. Her studies involve an analysis of ancient Egyptian papyri, which documents some of the first known concepts of psychology and mental health disorders.

In studying the papyri, Nasser concluded that the ancient Egyptians identified mental health conditions in their people similar to the conditions modern psychiatrists and doctors see in their patients today. For example, ancient Egyptians described a form of sadness with the ability to manifest physical illness. In Nasser’s explanation, she determined that this sadness “is this somatized form of depression that is still regarded to be the commonest presentation in Egypt today.” Nasser also concluded that carefully selected and trusted sorcerers held unofficial positions as ancient Egyptian psychiatrists as the papyri had no mention of an official physician of the mind.

Increasing Mental Health Awareness in Egypt

Despite the significant societal stigma surrounding mental health in Egypt, modern Egyptians are setting forth to break barriers to mental health progress through awareness movements and initiatives.

In August 2021, the Ministry of Health and Population in Egypt announced an intention to set in motion a cycling marathon to raise “awareness on mental health concepts among adolescents” in Egypt. With 100 participants and precautionary COVID-19 prevention measures in place, cyclists rode 12 kilometers in support of adolescent mental health in Egypt. The Ministry recognizes the psychological impacts of COVID-19 on all people, especially adolescents, and aims “to provide all means of psychological support to improve the level of mental health for adolescents.”

Young Egyptian minds like Ally Salama, the founder and CEO of EMPWR Magazine, “the Middle East’s first online mental health magazine,” have set forth to spread awareness of Egyptian mental health. Salama’s goals of societal mental health acceptance and awareness are some of many goals of young Egyptians striving to change the way Egypt views, manages and treats mental health issues that afflict the nation.

Hope for Improving Mental Health in Egypt

Ally Salama and the Ministry of Health and Population in Egypt aim to change the landscape of mental health in Egypt. Salama, who has made history with his efforts, is one of many Egyptians trying to break the stigma that clings to mental health in Egypt. Salama, other activists and Egyptian leaders serve as inspiration for others to help improve mental health in the nation.

– Michelanie Allcock
Photo: Flickr

Meals in EgyptIn Egypt, the impoverished population makes up 30.6 million of the total population of 102 million people. The issue of food insecurity in Egypt is juxtaposed with the country’s food waste problem. Food waste is a prevalent issue in Egypt, with the average Egyptian throwing out more than 150 pounds of food annually. The Tekeya food app aims to address both food waste and food insecurity simultaneously, transforming food waste into meals in Egypt.

Food Insecurity and Food Waste

Research projects that Egypt’s exponentially growing population will increase to 150 million people by 2050. This rapid population growth will add pressure to the food insecurity issue Egypt has tried to manage over the last decade. The reality is that 23% of all Egyptian households “struggle to meet their basic food needs.” The consequences of changing weather coupled with rising food costs are likely to push more families into food insecurity, extending the almost 5% rate of Egyptians who live with the reality of food insecurity.

Fruit and vegetables, milk, wheat and fish are some of Egypt’s most popular yet most wasted foods. On the production end, annually, up to 55% of produce spoils even before reaching a supermarket. In a 2015 study on household food waste, 86.2% of respondents admitted to discarding food. In addition to households, restaurants, hotels and grocery stores regularly throw out perfectly edible and delicious meals. While this is highly problematic all year, during Ramadan, a minimum of 60% of all food goes in the trash, largely due to excess shopping for holiday entertainment purposes.

Tekeya’s Work

Egypt’s high poverty rate coupled with its high food waste rate presents an ideal opportunity for the entrepreneurs behind the Tekeya app, Menna Shahin and Maxim Haartsen. In 2019, the co-founders launched Tekeya to reduce food waste and combat hunger in Egypt. The app only accepts high-quality foods donated from restaurants, bakeries and supermarkets. Businesses either sell or donate meals to Tekeya with the goal of decreasing their surplus of food at the end of the day. Every meal on the app offers healthy, fresh and sustaining options at a discounted rate, making quality food more readily available to low-income communities.

Through hard work, the co-founders created deals and programs with various NGOs, charities and orphanages as soon as six months after releasing the app. The phenomenal success of the app demonstrates peoples’ desire to live sustainably and help others in need. In addition to fighting food waste and insecurity, Tekeya’s work helps decrease the carbon footprint caused by food waste. To date, Tekeya has stopped more than 88,000 pounds of CO2 from entering the environment.

Today, Tekeya has prevented the wastage of 8,000 meals in Egypt, donating around 3,500 of these meals through the participation of 90 local business owners. With both delivery and pickup options at eight locations throughout Cairo, this app makes food much more accessible for many Egyptians. Tekeya’s legacy is spreading throughout Egypt with 7,000 downloads and counting. The donation portion of the app allows international relatives and friends to donate meals and groceries to family through 75 local charities.

Future Expansion

Shahin and Haartsen have big plans for expanding Tekeya throughout Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries. Locally, they plan to improve the app’s donation ability. Tekeya also aims to supply refugee women with meals in Egypt during their transition into Egyptian society by working with the local refugee resettlement organization Threads of Hope.

While local initiatives are a priority, the co-founders plan to share their innovative idea to help others in need internationally. Shahin told Egypt Independent that “[Tekeya] started in Egypt by serving in Aswan, Alexandria, Sharqia, Cario and Giza. [Tekeya] will expand to other Arab countries and then open up to the whole world.” By expanding their successful food waste solution, Shahin and Haartsen have the opportunity to change how the world manages food waste while aiding impoverished communities.

– Hannah Eliason
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Egypt 
Egypt is a place that inspires the imagination of many around the world. Located in northeastern Africa with a population of about 100 million people, Egypt was home to one of the world’s earliest urban and literate societies and continues to be an important political and economic power today. Furthermore, in recent years, Egypt has made a lot of progress in addressing poverty. Here are four facts about poverty in Egypt.

4 Facts About Poverty in Egypt

  1. Egypt’s Poverty Rate. Egypt’s poverty rate decreased in 2021. In 2015, the Egyptian government implemented a series of macroeconomic and social reforms. These measures were meant to stabilize the economy and promote sustainable growth. As a result of an increase in private sector participation in the economy, Egypt’s GDP growth reached 5.6% in 2019, up from 5.3% in 2018. Additionally, real estate, wholesale and retail trade, tourism, gas extraction and construction have all been significant factors in the growth of wealth. The change also positively impacted the unemployment rate, which decreased from 9.9% in 2017-18 to 7.5% in 2018-19. With a decrease in unemployment comes a decrease in poverty, except for the 2020 economic downfall due to coronavirus. The 2021 poverty level is 29.7%, while it was at 32.5% in 2018.
  2. Workers in Egypt. Despite positive trends in GDP growth and unemployment rates, Egypt’s poverty rate increased in 2017 and 2018. The majority of workers in Egypt were wage workers before and in 2018. Most of them had limited skills and therefore limited opportunities. Almost 60% of wage workers have informal employment, as is the case for 77% of poor wage workers. Apart from that, about one-fourth of the employed work temporary jobs. Without benefits of social insurance, inflation and other economic changes are likely to affect them.
  3. New Social Protection Programs. Egypt has struggled to meet the basic medical needs of its people in past years, but the country has had success with other social protection programs. The country transitioned from a traditional social care system to a more comprehensive social protection program. The new programs have provided housing units, implemented cash support and provided water and sewage support. The country has also worked with relevant authorities to secure health insurance and subsidized products for its people. This has allowed many individuals and families to rise out of the poverty line. The program has allowed more people to benefit from it because it aids those wanting to get out from below the poverty line, and it has worked. There has also been a 22% increase in loans and a 50% increase in pensions.
  4. Haya Karima National Project. In direct response to the high rate of extreme poverty in Egypt in 2018, the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS) initiated the Haya Karima Project in early 2019. The project was to help decentralize and provide the people with more resources while expanding from urban areas to the countryside. According to the Haya Karima Project’s website, “The initiative’s role includes closing the developmental gaps among centers and villages and their dependencies, investing in human development, and enhancing the value of the Egyptian personality.” This program is designed to unify the people in an economic sense and their country while keeping in mind all those on the outside borders. The program is ultimately about empowering the people and improving the quality of life for Egyptians.

Looking Ahead

These facts about poverty in Egypt show that while it has had several challenges, it is also showing great progress in the fight against poverty. With the series of new reforms, the Egyptian government has implemented new policies to lift people out of poverty. Decreasing the poverty rate can bring improvements in various sectors such as education and health care. If the country continues to improve its social protection programs, then it can set an example for the countries in the region.

– Veronica Rosas
Photo: Unsplash