In the wake of the political turmoil brought on by the Arab Spring, Egypt has struggled to maintain economic stability. Even after years of recovery, 28 percent of Egyptians live in poverty and 12.5 percent are unemployed. Unfortunately, children bear a large brunt of the crisis. The World Food Programme (WFP) found that nearly 31 percent of Egyptian children under five are considered malnourished. To combat this, the WFP, USAID and other organizations are stepping in to help schools, farmers and more fight child hunger in Egypt.
Providing Access to Food
According to the WFP, 16 percent of Egyptians have inadequate access to food. This shortage affects all Egyptians, but especially families living in the rural Northern region of Egypt. In rural Egypt, 21.3 percent of the population has poor access to food.
To help alleviate the effect this shortage has on children, the WFP and the Egyptian government are working on providing free school meals to children who attend community schools – rural, one-room schools common in Northern Egypt. This initiative helps feed hungry children and encourages families to continue to send their children to school even in hard times.
Recently, Egypt has had an influx of refugees escaping the civil war in Syria. These families are often in dire need of help and, as a response, the school meals program was expanded to include refugee children attending schools of all kinds. This is part of the wider Syria Refugee Regional Response program, which aims to train refugees in vocational skills that hold value in the market.
Supporting Agriculture to Lessen Child Hunger in Egypt
Agriculture is an integral part of the Egyptian economy and an important factor when tackling child hunger. Agriculture makes up 14.5 percent of the annual GDP and accounts for 28 percent of all jobs. Despite this, most farmers operate on a small scale and use traditional methods of farming that do not always line up with international standards. Examples of this include using too much or an incorrect type of chemical, resulting in poor yields and soil.
USAID has been working closely with these farmers as a part of its Feed the Future approach to sustainable food supplies. One way the group aims to create sustainability is to focus on farmers growing high-value crops such as tomatoes or green beans. USAID also helps farmers adjust their plans according to the market and needs of their buyers.
Transportation of crops is an issue in rural Egypt, where there is little infrastructure in place to carry goods across the country in temperatures that can sometimes be above 40 degrees Celsius. In response, USAID has helped build small storage houses in rural Egypt where local communities can store their crops more effectively. This process cuts down waste significantly, allowing farmers to bring in a bigger profit, reduce waste and feed their surrounding areas.
Moving Toward a Fuller Future
With proper farming strategies in place, rural Egyptians are positioned to feed their surrounding areas and their families, helping stop child hunger in Egypt while supporting the agricultural economy as well. Organizations such as the WFP and USAID are working together with both farmers and the government to provide food to those who need it most in a sustainable manner. This includes reforming farming practices and implementing programs that encourage students to go to school while providing meals to Egypt’s most vulnerable children.
– Jonathon Ayers