Understanding 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.
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.
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