Infotmation and stories on Egypt

Elderly Poverty in Egypt
Egypt’s poverty levels and its elderly population are increasing. UNFPA reported that 20.2% of the Egyptian population will be aged 60 and over in 2050. Meanwhile, the World Bank Group reported a poverty rate of 32.5% at the national poverty line in 2017. According to this, the amount of old persons in poverty is growing. To better understand what this means, it is necessary to know about some key aspects regarding elderly poverty in Egypt. These include what tools Egypt is fighting elderly poverty with, what the reality is for elderly Egyptians in poverty and what the future outlook for elderly poverty in Egypt is.

Egypt’s Tools Against Elderly Poverty

Due to the steady increase in elderly poverty over recent decades, Egypt implemented multiple initiatives to combat it. Some include a national policy on aging, national committees on aging in public and private sectors, health insurance to the poorest elderly, cultural and entertainment services and directives on public accessibility and mobility.

Cash transfer systems, like the Social Aid and Assistance program (SAA) and the more prominent safety net program Takaful and Karama (Solidarity and Dignity), also aid elderly poverty in Egypt. Takaful and Karama, which the Egyptian government and the World Bank Group established in 2015, aims to improve access to health and education for poor and vulnerable populations. The implementation of the World Bank’s project involved an initial $400 million in funding to positively influence 1.5 million persons with disabilities, families with young children and the elderly. Karama directly protects and promotes poor elderly persons’ wellbeing through unconditional monthly pensions.

Multiple elderly Egyptians earn an income through Egypt’s allowances for the standard retirement age. Although the global typical retirement age is 60, Egyptian judges, researchers and academics can work until 70. This ensures steady financials for many, keeping elderly poverty levels at bay.

The Reality of Elderly Poverty in Egypt

Though Egypt’s efforts to tamper elderly poverty are extensive, they do not tell the full story for the country’s poor elderly individuals. For example, cash transfer programs are often inaccessible or experience poor implementation. Applications for SAA are strictly in person, making it harder for old persons to physically access, apply for and benefit from the program. Under Takaful and Karama in 2018, a small number of impoverished elderly persons actually received pensions — only 3.5% according to an article that the UN published.

In previous years, many impoverished elderly individuals disclosed dissatisfaction with their knowledge of and access to services. Sarah Sabry, a member of the Arab Learning Initiative, conducted interviews with people in poor and vulnerable positions in El-Ezba and El-Zelzal in Cairo to reveal their living conditions. Among the interviewees were elderly persons living alone and an elderly widow living with her daughters and grandchildren. They communicated issues like little to no access to free health services, insufficient infrastructure, distance to the nearest health facility and lack of preventative health care.

People also conveyed a lack of knowledge regarding services available to them — a woman who applied for SAA recounted receiving a rejection without explanation. Overall, many indicated uncertainty regarding what documents they required to apply for aid.

In response to these circumstances among others, additional efforts emerged. The monthly beneficiary pension through Karama extended 100 Egyptian pounds (EGPs) to 450 EGPs to assist with price increases, and many recent beneficiaries are elderly — about 18% out of some 2.5 million. As of 2020, at least 2.5 million families actively benefit from the World Bank’s and Egyptian Government’s Takaful and Karama safety net program. Although there are undoubtedly gaps in the scope and accessibility of these programs, it is hard to ignore the reality of elderly lives reached and improved.

Looking into the Future

Twelve percent of Egypt’s elderly persons experienced impoverishment in 2017. With the projected growth in the elderly population, elderly poverty in Egypt will surely grow. There are clearly effective mechanisms in place to address elderly poverty, but just as clearly, those mechanisms do not have perfect reach given this expected growth. The World Bank asserts that amplifying projects like Takaful and Karama and food subsidy allowances can combat the rise in poverty. As a result, the expansion of services today will likely improve tomorrow for Egypt’s elderly individuals.

– Claire Kirchner
Photo: Flickr

7 Education Reforms Happening in EgyptEgypt has the largest school system in the Middle East with more than 18 million students. Additionally, the school system’s gender attendance rate is nearly equal due to Egypt’s open access to primary schools. However, as Egypt’s population rapidly grows, the quality of its education system decreases. The World Bank created the term “Learning Poverty” to describe children who lack basic reading comprehension skills by the age of 10. Egypt has had a significant problem with learning poverty. As a result, the Egyptian government has created the “Education 2.0” system to tackle this issue.

The Egyptian Ministry of Education has worked closely with the United States Agency of International Development (USAID) to create seven education reforms in Egypt. This is a $500 million reform investment and its reforms stretch from kindergarten to secondary school.

7 Education Reforms in Egypt

  1. Expanding Access to Early Childhood Learning: The Education 2.0 program works to build schools that include an early education program in students’ villages. The aim is for students to have an adequate grasp on the essential skills of reading, comprehension, writing, math and English by the third grade. These skills are especially critical for children to learn in their early childhood.
  2. Remedial Reading Programs: Egypt’s education reform stretches beyond incoming students by seeking out students in grades 4-9 who have fallen behind on the essential skills mentioned above. These programs intend to bring these students up to the same educational standard as the rest of their grade level.
  3. Implementing Learning Villages: Egypt has adopted the innovative approach of intergenerational education reform in vulnerable rural areas by teaching primary-aged children how to read as well as their mothers. This allows children to be able to be engaged in literacy work at school and at home.
  4. Improving General Assessment Skills: Previously, students were asked to directly memorize exam answers and the exams were often leaked beforehand. This severely limited long-term comprehension. The reformed education program endeavors to test students on understanding as opposed to memorization capacity.
  5. Revamping Teacher Training Programs: Teachers will be re-trained and re-licensed because it is crucial that their methodology changes to match education reform programming. Teachers must help convince students and parents that it is imperative for the education system to have a goal beyond passing exams. They also need adequate resources to focus their attention on students who are falling behind.
  6. Linking Education and Technology: While the Education 2.0 program was initially stagnant, the COVID-19 crisis has actually accelerated technological advances due to social distancing guidelines. Two companies, Promethean and the Egyptian Knowledge Bank, have also aided in digitizing education resources by respectively creating free online spaces to get educational content and providing educational technology to 26,000 classrooms.
  7. Educating Refugees: Of the 200,000 refugees who have sought asylum in Egypt, 40% of them are children who become reliant on the Egyptian education system. The Egyptian government is using the model created by the U.N.’s Refugee Resilience Response Plan to help these vulnerable children. The government plans to give refugees a combined formal and informal, community-based education system that can bring stability to their lives.

Education 2.0 focuses on bringing children out of learning poverty by focusing on vulnerable communities, re-training teachers and giving students greater access to education through technology. Education reform is essential to the long-term growth and success of a country, so programs like Egypt’s Education 2.0 is incredibly important.

Olivia Welsh
Photo: Flickr

The Arab Spring
On February 11, 2011, the chant of the people echoed throughout Tahrir Square. The screams of “Ash-shaʻb yurīd isqāṭ an-niẓām,” translated as “the people will topple the regime,” had inundated the despot. But the regime has proven more difficult to expunge. Today, the Arab Spring in Egypt has failed. Since the 2011 protests, the poverty rate in Egypt has risen from 25% to 33%. The state has fomented religious persecution in the name of antiterrorism and is discouraging private media.

The Arab Spring

In 2011, a series of uprisings known as the Arab Spring swept across the Middle East. In Tunisia, when authorities confiscated the cart of a street vendor named Mohammad Bouazizi, a video circulated of Bouazizi self-immolating in protest. According to authorities, Bouazizi lacked the proper paperwork. A female officer allegedly slapped him. Bouazizi’s plight was emblematic of a youth problem across the Arab world.

In Tunisia, the poverty rate was 14.7% and most of that number consisted of youths, many of whom had an education. After a visit from Ben Ali, the president of Tunisia, in which Ali feigned concern for Bouazizi’s grievances, the street vendor died. The death of Mohammad Bouazizi sparked a revolution across the Arab World. In Egypt, the situation was worse. Approximately 20% of Egyptians lived below the poverty line and another 20% lived near the poverty line.

In 2010, an Egyptian man named Khaled Said videotaped two policemen allegedly consuming the spoils of a drug bust. The policemen later found and mutilated him. His death sparked even more indignation toward repression in Egypt. He became a symbol of brutal government repression under Hosni Mubarak.

Hosni Mubarak

In his youth, Mubarak rose up the ranks of the military until he eventually became commander of the Egyptian Air Force in 1972. Subsequently, he became vice president of Egypt. During this time, Islamic extremists murdered President Anwar Sadat, and Mubarak witnessed his assassination. Sadat’s death made an indelible impression on Mubarak. It made him desire the preservation of power at all costs. He became president in 1981 and immediately issued an emergency law.

Mubarak would give the Egyptian police and the military sweeping powers to crack down on any perceived threats, including opposition from the Muslim Brotherhood.

Mubarak’s economic policies also encouraged major disparities between the rich and the poor in Egypt. Because of the government’s reliance on foreign aid, the IMF and the World Bank urged the Mubarak regime to adopt neoliberal principles based on privatization, subsidy cuts and deregulation. These policies encouraged severe inequality, which ignited massive protests consisting of hundreds of thousands.

On February 11, 2011, the recently appointed vice president of Egypt, Omar Suleiman, announced that Mubarak would willfully resign from his position as president. Many thousands celebrated in Tahrir Square. Today, however, a military strong man has once again wrested power from the people.

From Morsi to Sisi

By 2013, most people had become vehemently opposed to Mubarak’s replacement, Mohammad Morsi, for his 2012 constitutional declaration, which placed him and his edicts above judicial review. Thus, the military led a popularly supported coup against the first democratically elected Egyptian president; the man who would replace him was named Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi.

Sisi would brutally crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood and liberal activists, accusing them of terrorism and libel. These actions have led to increasing numbers of political prisoners. In 2019, Egyptian businessmen Muhammad Ali accused the government of siphoning its resources for vanity projects and luxury lifestyles, including building palaces on state funds. Regardless of the validity of these accusations, government resources are not reaching the poorest in society, with a poverty rate of 33%.

Social Media

Although uprisings have been prevalent long before the advent of social media, social media is undoubtedly a potent weapon to expedite revolution. For men like Hosni Mubarak and Ben Ali, the unfettered voice of social media was insurmountable. Now, in the case of President Sisi, it is only a matter of time before the opposition becomes insurmountable. Whether this is reason to believe the regime will fall with him is another question. For now, various NGOs such as the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) are exposing the repression of civil society in Egypt. Such work could have immeasurable effects.

– Blake Dysinger
Photo: Flickr

addressing gender inequality in EgyptEgypt recently launched the “Closing the Gender Gap Accelerator” to reinforce its stance on female economic gender discrimination. This initiative is a partnership between the World Economic Forum (WEF), National Council of Women, the Egyptian Government and the private business sector. The financial and human capital investment in this undertaking shows that the country is committed to addressing gender inequality in Egypt.

Closing the Gender Gap Accelerator

In 2019, Egypt’s Minister of Tourism, International Cooperation and Investment, Dr. Rania Al-Mashat, signed a letter of intent along with the WEF and the National Council of Women to empower women. More than 48 million women represent this emerging countries’ population and the good news is that their involvement will expedite the growth of the economy and gather momentum in eliminating poverty.

Each party has a specific role in the program’s success. Businesses will be tasked with the presence of additional women in the workforce, equal pay and professional development. Other benefits included are extended maternity leave for either parent and subsidized childcare to offset barriers that will cause women to fall behind, lose their position or not enter the labor force.

Egypt’s government, which has invested more than $3 billion in this project, will incentivize strategies and track the program’s evolution. In addition, the legislature has the commitment of more than 90 businesses.

Objectives of the Accelerator

Closing the Gender Gap Accelerator’s mission has four objectives: eliminate the gender pay gap, ensure more women are promoted into business management roles, expand their growth in the workforce and make sure that women are poised to work in a society that is will be powered by the likes of digital technology and artificial intelligence along with robotics.

One of the co-chairs of the private sector for the Accelerator, the Commercial International Bank known as Qalaa Holdings, firmly believes in empowering women in the workplace and it has demonstrated that by having 25% of the company’s executive board and leadership positions filled by women.

While the Accelerator is focused on women’s success in the economy, it also takes into account how women are viewed in the male-dominated workforce. Creating a safe climate in companies is just as important so the unfair barometers that women are measured by have to be eliminated as well as dismantling the discriminatory behavior toward them.

Global Gender Equality

Egypt is one out of nine countries, and the first country in Africa to set in motion a project of this magnitude created by the WEF.  After more than 10 years of researching global gender inequality issues, WEF realized that it would take nearly 100 years for political gender parity to be achieved. Women comprise 50% of the global population in most countries and to purposely exclude them from the equation would seriously compromise a society’s overall economic and societal impact worldwide.

WEF’s Accelerators to Close the Gender Gap

To combat this shortcoming, WEF created accelerators and issued a challenge to nations that want to close the economic gender gap. Public and private entities form accelerators to be inclusive of women in business, from job recruitment to job promotions and work on eliminating prejudice against them. Each country is on a three-year timetable (countries start date varies) and the WEF preserves the global structure of the project while the countries operate independently in the communities.  So far, Iceland has seen the most success out of the nine participating countries, by consistently closing the gender parity gap for 11 consecutive years.

A Bright Future for Egyptian Women

The Accelerator is an important tool for addressing gender inequality in Egypt. This initiative is good news for the women of Egypt as it shows the country’s continuous commitment to removing societal hurdles that have unjustly smothered women’s attempts at succeeding in the economy and stifled their much-needed contribution to society.

-Kim L. Patterson
Photo: Flickr

soccer players practicing philanthropy
Soccer, or football players to most of the world, are most often recognized for their impressive work on the field. However, professional soccer players have a lot of potential for impactful good off the field. This, due to their status, influence and financial capabilities. Listed here are five soccer players (part of FIFA) who have a powerful impact on the lives of impoverished peoples. Importantly, their reach extends throughout the world. These are great examples of professional soccer players practicing philanthropy.

5 FIFA Soccer Players Practicing Philanthropy

  1. Lionel Messi is an Argentine footballer who plays forward and captains La Liga club, Barcelona and the Argentinian national team. In response to COVID-19, Messi has made a wide variety of contributions through his organization, The Leo Messi Foundation. He began his foundation in 2007. Its mission focuses on helping kids and teenagers using health, education and sports initiatives. Messi has donated €1 million, split between Hospital Clinic in Catalunya and a health center in Argentina. Additionally, he gave €200,000 to UNICEF projects in Kenya. As a result, more than 2,000 citizens gained access to clean water.
  2. Mohammed Salah is a winger for the English Premier League club, Liverpool and the Egyptian national team. Salah has donated thousands of tons of food and fresh meat to his hometown in Egypt, to help families who have been impacted by COVID-19. Also, Salah donated to the Bassioun General Hospital. Moreover, he (along with his father) gave land to establish a sewage treatment plant in his hometown. With this effort, he hopes to provide a stable source of clean water to the region. Furthermore, Salah has been selected as the first ambassador for the U.N. Instant Network Schools, which connects refugees and host countries’ students with online education opportunities.
  3. Sadio Mane is a forward for the English Premier League club, Liverpool. Mane is funding the construction of a hospital for the village of Bambali, Senegal, where he was born. He took inspiration to do so after losing his father to a stomach illness, with no hospital in the village available to help him. Considering Senegal’s inhabitants, 33% are below the poverty line and Mane’s contributions to schools, hospitals and mosques in his home village are helping improve the quality of life for individuals living there.
  4. Mesut Ozil is a German footballer who plays as a midfielder for the English Premier League club, Arsenal. It is reported that he has paid for more than 1,000 operations for children across the world, food for 100,000 refugees in Turkey and Syria and is an ambassador for the children’s charity — Rays of Sunshine, in England.
  5. Jermain Defoe is currently a striker for the Scottish Premiership club, Rangers. He created the Jermain Defoe Foundation in 2013 to support at-risk youth in his family’s hometown, Caribbean, St. Lucia. His foundation’s mission is to help kids who are vulnerable and in need in the U.K., the Caribbean Islands and Northern Island. His grandparents grew up in St. Lucia and his foundation has worked on several projects in St. Lucia. The foundation’s work includes the refurbishment of the Soufriere Primary School after a hurricane,  donation of shoes to the Daigen School and the financial backing of The Rainbow Children’s Home.

Good Work: On and Off the Pitch

In addition to their work on the football pitch, these soccer players practicing philanthropy are doing excellent work for humanitarian missions and initiatives.  The contributions of these soccer players in healthcare, education and nutrition are improving the lives of the individuals affected by their initiatives worldwide.

Hannah Bratton
Photo: Flickr

Economic Gender Parity in EgyptIn July 2020, the IFC launched a new program called “Closing The Gender Gap Accelerator” to help boost women’s employment in Egypt. In 2019, only 24% of women who were of age to work participated in Egypt’s labor economy, versus 75% of working-age men. It is critical that women are included in the workforce, as the inclusion of women in a country’s workforce greatly boosts a country’s GDP. Private sector companies must realize the potential of women to spur economic growth, especially in the time of recession caused by the ongoing pandemic.

Private Sector Partnership

Therefore, one of the main goals of this program is to bridge the gap between the private and public sectors. The diversity of businesses brought in will provide the necessary local insight and planning to make this project successful. The IFC will be partnering with an Egyptian business association to create this platform for working women and their peers that raises awareness and shares knowledge, as well as improves women’s access to jobs.

From the private sector, four CEOs that have influence over a large spectrum of businesses will lead the Accelerator. Representatives from the private sector include the Commercial International Bank (CIB), Qala’a Holdings, Travco Group International and Delta Investment Holdings. From the public sphere, the program will be led by the Ministry of International Cooperation and the National Commission for Women (NCW).

Egypt is the first country in the African and Middle Eastern region to launch a program that collaborates between the public and private sectors to take action on economic gender parity. As the title “Closing The Gender Gap Accelerator” suggests, the program focuses on four objectives to accelerate gender parity in the workforce in Egypt.

Targeting Obstacles

These objectives are: preparing women for the working world post-COVID-19 pandemic, closing gender gaps in salary, getting more women to participate in Egypt’s workforce and advancing women in the workforce to take part in more leadership and management positions. This program is a three-year initiative that came about as a solution to the serious threats posed to women’s engagement in Egypt’s economy during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. The program plans to help make businesses more resilient and inclusive, especially during a crisis.

According to the Ministry of International Cooperation, “The Accelerator is designed to identify key economic gender gaps, develop public and private-sector interventions for narrowing these gaps and commit relevant stakeholders from both sectors to a three-year action plan.”

A recent study showed that Egypt’s gross domestic product (GDP) could jump 32% if the gender gap in the labor market narrowed. Currently, the gender wage gap stands at 22% with women being paid less for the same work as men. With this commitment from both sectors of the country’s economy, it is hopeful that not only will Egypt’s GDP be raised, but there will be great strides taken towards economic gender parity in African and Middle Eastern regions.

– Giulia Silver
Photo: Flickr

Sudanese RefugeesMany refugees in Sudan fled on foot to Egypt to escape violent and impoverished conditions in Sudan. About 3.8 million Sudanese refugees currently live in neighboring Egypt, which is a popular destination for Sudanese refugees because the country is accessible on foot and the refugees are still able to receive help from relatives. Egypt is a close destination and for some, it is a stopping point before they attempt to flee to Europe, which is an even more dangerous route. Although they may flee to Egypt, however, many face adversities of discrimination and poverty once there.

Sudanese Refugees

Many Sudanese flee their home country to other regions of Africa due to political conflict and economic turmoil. Refugees in Sudan escape their country on foot to neighboring countries. When the first civil war started about 60 years ago in southern Sudan, Sudanese refugees began to flee to Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia.

Many individuals have fled for different reasons; some flee to obtain better rights, but in particular, many flee to escape religious persecutions. One Sudanese man was targeted due to his Christian faith and the police told him to renounce his faith. The Muslim faith is prominent and individuals who practice the Christian faith have suffered persecution. Since he continued to believe in his religion, the man went to jail where he faced beatings and torture. After spending weeks in jail, the Sudanese man fled to Cairo, Egypt.

Sudanese Refugees Face Discrimination in Egypt

Many refugees in Sudan flee to Egypt resulting in a burden on resources. Overall, Egypt hosts millions of refugees who flee their country’s terrible conditions, only to face racism in Egypt. Some Egyptians will call Sudanese refugees slaves and other ethnic slurs. Some have faced harassment that brings up traumatic memories and flashbacks of violent conditions they experienced in Sudan, including torture and rape. Sudanese children are sometimes bullied in school. Egyptians and even refugees from other countries exhibit this behavior.

Some individuals in Egypt recognize there is a problem and acknowledge that Sudanese refugees are negatively treated. The president of Egypt, Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi calls for his citizens to take action and to not mistreat Sudanese refugees. In 2018, an Egyptian court sentenced a man to seven years in prison for harassing, beating and killing a South Sudanese teacher who worked with refugees in Cairo.

Sudanese Refugees Face Poverty in Egypt

More than 5 million refugees in Sudan left their country to escape poverty but have subsequently faced financial hardships in Egypt. Sudanese refugees in Egypt are provided with 1,500 Egyptian pounds (LE) for every child from the United Nations through the Catholic Relief Services (CRS), with no additional assistance from the state. Thus, it is difficult for the refugees to pay for schools and other expenses. At the same time, it is difficult for a Sudanese refugee to find work in Egypt, even for those with higher education, since the residence permit does not allow work. Many who do find jobs work by cleaning houses and shops.

Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, many refugees in Sudan have faced an increased level of previous hardships. A fifth of foreigners were vulnerable and lost their jobs from the COVID-19 lockdowns in Egypt. In addition, many Egyptians have lost their jobs and in return have been forced to let go of migrant workers from Africa and Asia.

A Sudanese charity has financially helped more than 500 struggling families whose breadwinners have lost their jobs. Eviction has been a major problem for Sudanese refugees in Egypt, some of whom are attempting to return home.

Many Sudanese refugees escape their home country, only to face similar problems. Impoverished conditions continue to follow them within Egypt, although many strive to work harder in the new country. Organizations within Egypt need to help to eliminate discrimination against Sudanese refugees to alleviate their added struggles.

Ann Ciancia
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Egypt
With more than 98 million people, Egypt remains the most populated country in North Africa. More than 32.5% of citizens live below the poverty line, making malnutrition and hunger in Egypt pressing issues. The current influx of poverty leaves children and adults without proper education, left to partake in dangerous and under-compensated work such as mining, quarrying and cement production.

The Situation

Although marketplaces are bustling and full, Egypt relies on imported foods. As the world’s largest wheat producer, Egypt is at risk of any drastic changes in commodity pricing and economies. While markets have more than enough fruits, vegetables and bread, most of the population cannot purchase essential grocery items. Without the capacity to control possible economic fluctuations, Egypt’s vulnerability leaves its hungriest citizens without a safety net from their government, let alone their savings.

Egypt’s hunger crisis is an accumulation of many setbacks, including global financial crises, food shortages and disease. Yet another economic or social misfortune has followed each attempted effort towards success. As a result, more than 1.3% of Egypt’s population was living with less than $1.90 to spend per day in 2015; the average American spends $164.55 per day.

How Did This Happen?

Since the early 2000s, Egypt has faced a series of difficulties including the 2006 avian influenza, food and fuel crisis of 2007, economic despair through 2009 and most recently, COVID-19. As a country treading between minor stability and complete poverty, each challenge, both global and local, has severe implications for Egypt and its people.

Hunger in Egypt has roots in food costs; a majority of the Egyptian population can only afford minimally nutritious meals. A 2011 UN World Health Organization study found that 31% of Egyptian children less than 5 years old suffer from stunted growth in comparison to 23% in 2005. Malnutrition not only affects brain development but also contributes to a cycle that perpetuates and exacerbates Egypt’s weaknesses.

Malnourished children cannot perform well in school; malnourished workers are incapable of providing for themselves and their families, making financial and cultural growth seemingly impossible.

Solutions

The prominent changes in Egypt’s condition are a result of the Egypt Vision 2030. As a roadmap to Egypt’s eventual security, Egypt Vision 2030 emerged to increase employment rates, begin food security initiatives, increase clean water access and generate accessible screening and treatment for malnourished individuals.

The mission is that by 2030, Egypt will rank within the top 30 countries for economy size, market competitiveness, human development, life quality and anti-corruption. With such improvements, eradicating hunger in Egypt becomes possible.

Within the economic and social dimensions of the plan, the sixth pillar outlines that by 2030, improvements in health conditions will occur through “early intervention, preventative coverage,” guaranteed protection for the vulnerable and prioritizing the satisfaction of health sector employees.

These extensive efforts have led to program and policy implementation, propelling Egypt to meet its targets. For instance, at the onset of the plan in 2015, the malnourishment rate was 4.5%. By 2030, Egypt hoped the rate would be below 3%. With 10 years until the 2030 deadline, 3.2% of the Egyptian population is malnourished. It is evident that the strategy behind Vision 2030 is effective.

Feeding Children Through Education

A vital pillar of the Egypt Vision 2030 is the National Strategic Plan for Pre-University Education. The World Food Programme (WFP) is spearheading the plan to increase school meals’ nutritional value. Though it helps enrolled students, the plan does not benefit children not attending school. The school meals incentivize students to attend, serving as an aspect Egypt tactfully uses to increase pre-university enrollment rates.

The Pre-University Education Plan resulted from new investment and financing strategies to develop curriculum, financial aid, illiteracy and dropout elimination programs, technical teacher training and recurring student assessments to ensure the meeting of international standards. To execute these programs, The National Strategic Plan for Pre-University Education set a goal to spend 8% of GDP shares on pre-university education by 2030. Currently, that number is at 6%, double the initial percentage that Egypt spent in 2014. Additionally, Egypt’s Ministry of Finance reported an 82% spending increase in education and health. With increased pre-university education attendance, children receive nutritionally balanced meals every day. Health and education funding creates a domino effect, which will eventually lead to the elimination of hunger in Egypt.

The budget increase, in addition to malnourishment, serves Egypt’s education system. Classroom sizes decreased from an average of 42 students in 2015 to between 23 and 16 in 2019. The National Strategic Plan for Pre-University Education 2030 target was to have an average of 35 students per classroom. Egypt’s strategies prove to be highly successful, as its school attendance numbers are higher than its once-projected targets.

Higher enrollment, smaller classroom sizes and well-trained teachers have replaced Egypt’s dated culture of memorization. This new approach emphasizes individual learning, life principles, and modern technology. Repairing the education systems tears has an undeniable correlation to employment and hunger rates.  In changing the fundamentals of the educational experience, Egyptian students now have proper nourishment. As a result, they can have the brainpower to master skill sets that will earn them stable jobs with livable incomes, thus ending the cycle of poverty.

Aid from organizations like the UN and World Food Programme, in collaboration with the Egypt Vision 2030, can eradicate hunger in Egypt. In breaking the cycle of malnourishment and lack of education, Egypt will continue on its path towards growth, prosperity and stability.

– Maya Sulkin
Photo: Flickr

Poverty Eradication in Egypt
Innovations in poverty eradication in Egypt have taken a sustainable and decentralized form in the last four years. Through local initiatives and collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Egypt has incorporated social welfare and development programs aimed at improving the standard of living in its poorest governorates and providing a permanent path out of poverty for future generations.

With Egypt’s poverty rate rising to 5% in 2019, how exactly does Egypt plan to have a “competitive, balanced, diversified, and knowledge based economy” that would eliminate poverty by 2030?

UNDP Sustainable Development Strategies

One significant innovation in poverty eradication in Egypt is the UNDP’s adoption of a social entrepreneurial and minority centralized model. Through partnerships with Egypt’s public sector, private companies and civil society, the UNDP not only helped prioritize economic development but also made women, children and disabled people a focal point.

  1. The GSER Program: The GSER program under the Misr El-Kheir Foundation, a nonprofit development institution in Egypt, organizes social innovation camps with UNDP’s support. Youth from all parts of Egypt co-scheme solutions to improve the livelihoods in Fayoum’s fishing community, one of Egypt’s poorest governorates. Accomplishments include a redesigned shrimp peeling table for fishermen’s wives, which advanced hygiene and shell quality in Fayoum.
  2. The IBM Academic Initiative: The IBM Academic Initiative invested $70 million with the objective of providing over 25 million Africans free digital skills training and launching one of its regional offices in Egypt. UNDP’s contributions will help Egypt cultivate a STEM-oriented workforce through access to IBM’s cutting edge tools and course material.
  3. The Game Changer Fellowship: The Game Changer Fellowship is a one-year program that provides incubation support to aspiring Egyptian game designers through a partnership between UNDP Egypt and the Engagement Lab at Emerson College in Boston, U.S.A. This has enabled Egypt’s youth to uniquely approach development challenges by stimulating behavior change. Given that 84% of Egypt’s unemployment rate comprises young men and women, such initiatives are imperative in enhancing human capital in order to prevent an underdeveloped workforce.
  4. The Mobile Ramp App: The Mobile Ramp App helps Egypt’s disabled community lead easier, more integrated lives. UNDP partnered with Fab Lab Egypt and the Misr El-Kheir Foundation to launch a media campaign that promotes and teaches sign language as well as maps out locations with available ramps.

J-PAL’s (Abdul Latif Jamil Poverty Action Lab) Innovative Research

Despite these innovations in poverty eradication in Egypt, reports determined that there were 32.5% of Egyptian citizens living below the poverty line in 2019. According to J-PAL, a global research center aiming to reduce poverty, this extreme poverty figure of 32.5% indicates that the policies and programs designed to alleviate Egypt’s poverty are not as effective as they could be.

In order to achieve successful innovations in poverty eradication in Egypt, J-PAL’s MIT branch is launching a research center at the American University in Cairo. Through research and professional training to inform evidence-based policies and engage governments and relevant NGOs, Egypt will establish a culture of empirical policy making so that it can adequately evaluate the efficacy of its plans. 

Institutionalizing Social Innovation and Sustainable Development

While international efforts facilitate innovations in poverty eradication in Egypt, government and grassroots organizations in Egypt have adopted technological and sustainable based solutions to economic problems through their own localized projects and findings.

  1. The Egyptian Government: The Egyptian government is investing EGP 47bn ($3 billion) to Upper Egypt governorates in its 2020-2021 fiscal year. This is a 50% increase from 2019, representing 25% of total government investments.
  2. The Takaful and Karama Program: The Takaful and Karama program provides income support to the poor through a conditional and unconditional cash transfer program that aims to increase food consumption and necessary healthcare. Nevin al Qabbaj, the Social Solidarity Minister, reported that by 2020 around 2.5 million Egyptian families have benefited from the program.
  3. SEKEM: SEKEM, an Egyptian sustainable development organization, is working with the Egyptian government to implement Egypt Vision 2030. The plan includes 12 “pillars” targeting economic development, social justice, innovative research, education, health and the environment. Additionally, along with local NGOs, SEKEM has revitalized Egypt’s desert land and developed its agricultural businesses using biodynamic methods.

Egypt’s ability to mitigate poverty across all demographics using sustainable, innovative and ethical practices is testimony to its economic and cultural prosperity. Egypt’s innovations in poverty eradication are unique in that they exemplify the duality of individual, entrepreneurial growth in the private sphere and collective, righteous leadership in the public sphere.

– Joy Arkeh
Photo: Flickr

Hepatitis C in Egypt
In Egypt, the country with the highest prevalence of hepatitis C in the world, the virus affects an estimated 6.3% of the population. Since 2014, Egypt has made great leaps in combatting hepatitis C. With support from the World Bank, the Transforming Egypt’s Healthcare System Project has worked to improve the quality of healthcare offered across medical facilities, as well as tested and treated patients infected with hepatitis C. Between 2018 and 2019, almost 50 million citizens were tested and 2 million patients received free treatment.

What is Hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C, or HCV, is a viral infection transmitted through unscreened blood transfusions and the use of contaminated or unsterilized needles, as well as instruments used for tattooing or body piercing. While it can remain asymptomatic — in most cases, if untreated, hepatitis C can eventually cause chronic infections, liver inflammation (or failure) and death. Hepatitis C is a serious public health issue, which causes financial and social stress for patients and Egypt as a whole.

The hepatitis C epidemic began in Egypt during the 1950s–1980s, with the use of poorly sterilized needles in the treatment of schistosomiasis, a disease caused by parasitic worms. The anti-schistosomiasis treatment campaign terminated in the 1980s. However, HCV incidence rates remained high, despite regular screening of blood at blood banks and attempts to improve public health standards.

Mass Screening & Awareness Programs

In 2014, the Egyptian Ministry of Health, with support from the WHO, proposed with a program to educate, test and treat patients infected with hepatitis C, particularly in rural areas where the condition was more prevalent. Most of the treated citizens already had a positive diagnosis for the virus. Later, as the number of patients began to stagnate and dwindle. Efforts then shifted to testing and treating those who had possible infections but remained asymptomatic.

In 2018, a national population-based screening program was launched to test 62 million adults and 15 million adolescents. Additionally, the free screening program also included tests for diabetes, obesity and blood pressure. The program, offered at screening centers and mobile units set up at community spaces such as mosques, youth centers and factories — also provides HCV treatments.

Low-Cost Drugs & Free Treatment

The Egyptian government successfully negotiated significant price reductions for direct-acting antiviral (DAA) drugs with the drug manufacturer. Egypt achieved a further reduction in prices by permitting local, generic competition. This reduced the price for one DAA drug from $28,000 to $23 (for a one-month supply) and a second drug from $21,000 to $3.30. This allowed the Egyptian government to combat the epidemic on a scale that would have otherwise been impossible.

Furthermore, the Egyptian government offered a 12-week treatment program and follow-up care, free of cost for citizens. Between 2014 and 2019, the Egyptian government offered free care to 88% of patients.

A Healthcare Model for the World

The Egyptian government, with support from the World Bank and in alignment with the WHO, has made continued efforts to tackle hepatitis C through mass programs that spread awareness among citizens. These same programs provide free, accessible testing, vaccination, infection control, treatment and follow-up. While Egypt is still working to rescue its population from this epidemic, the country offers a model of admirable success for the rest world.

Amy Olassa
Photo: Flickr