Common Diseases in Egypt
According to the CIA World Factbook, the four most common diseases in Egypt are bacterial diarrhea, typhoid fever, hepatitis A and schistosomiasis. People in the country are at intermediate risk for contracting these illnesses.

Bacterial diarrhea, also referred to as bacterial gastroenteritis, is a stomach and intestine infection. It is spread through eating or drinking contaminated food and water. Depending on which bacteria are ingested, different symptoms may surface. The symptoms most associated with bacterial diarrhea are abdominal pain/cramps, loss of appetite, bloody stool, nausea and vomiting.

Fortunately, it only takes a couple of days for someone to recover from this infection fully. In the meantime, they should ward off dehydration by drinking enough fluids and getting enough rest, especially young children. If nausea and vomiting are preventing someone from getting their fluids, getting fluids via IV is also an option.

Enteric fever, more commonly known as typhoid fever, is a life-threatening bacterial disease. People carry the Salmonella Typhi in their bloodstream and intestinal tract. When carriers or infected individuals shed the bacteria in their stool, they can infect others by handling food or drinks. People can also be infected if they wash food with or drink contaminated water.

Symptoms of typhoid fever include feelings of weakness, headaches, stomach pains, loss of appetite and, in some cases, rashes. Because these symptoms are not unique to typhoid fever, getting stool or blood samples tested is the best way to know if someone is infected.

There are vaccines and antibiotics available to prevent and treat typhoid fever.

Another one of the most common diseases in Egypt is hepatitis A. The hepatitis A virus causes viral liver disease. It is transmitted by ingesting contaminated food and water or direct contact with an infected individual.

While hepatitis A by itself is rarely fatal and does not cause chronic liver disease, it can cause incapacitating symptoms and fatal acute liver failure if left untreated. Symptoms of hepatitis A include jaundice, malaise, fever, loss of appetite, nausea, abdominal discomfort and dark-colored urine. These symptoms can manifest anywhere from mild to severe.

At the time of writing, there is no cure for hepatitis A, only preventative methods. These include drinking clean water, proper disposal of sewage materials and practicing good hygiene with clean water.

Schistosomiasis, also referred to as bilharzia, is a chronic and acute disease brought on by parasitic worms. Anyone who comes into contact with infected water is at risk of contracting it.

In reaction to the invading worms’ eggs, an infected person can experience diarrhea, abdominal pain and bloody stool. In extreme cases, there may also be liver and/or spleen enlargement. Children are at risk of having their growth stunted, developing learning complications and anemia. Fortunately, treatment can typically undo these effects.

As of now, ingesting clean water, avoiding exposure to contaminated water, similar preventative measures and taking the prescribed medications are the ways to deal with schistosomiasis.

While the most common diseases in Egypt may not all have cures, they are certainly not a death sentence. With proper preventative care and medication, people can wrest control of their bodies from these illnesses.

Jada Haynes

Photo: Flickr

For the past 10 years, the Egyptian government has struggled with figuring out ways to improve their water system in order for water to be accessible and also in order for the water supply to thrive. The U.N. warns that Egypt could run out of the water by 2025. Here are 10 facts about the water crisis in Egypt.

10 Facts About the Struggle to End the Water Crisis in Egypt

  1. Egypt is suffering from severe water scarcity. Only 20 cubic meters of water per person of internal renewable freshwater resources remain.
  2. Population growth is a massive contributor to the water crisis in Egypt. Since the 1990s, the population has grown by 41 percent. The population is also predicted to grow from 92 million to 110 million by 2025.
  3. Ninety-five percent of the Egyptian population lives within a ten-mile radius of the Nile River. Egypt also controls 90 percent of the Nile River, more than any other country surrounding the Nile. Even with this proximity to the river, two out of five households do not have water.
  4. Human life on the Nile is partially responsible for the water crisis in Egypt. Most pollution comes from municipal and industrial waste. The industrial waste affects the drinkability of the water along with the ecosystems within the water.
  5. Polluted water is being distributed to citizens. Because of the water scarcity, most water is not treated properly, leading to 95.5 percent of the nation drinking poorly sanitized water.
  6. Egypt consists of mostly desert land, with only six percent of land being arable and useful for agriculture. This type of environment leads to the nation only receiving 80 mm of rainfall annually.
  7. Egypt’s poor irrigation system is wasting a majority of the nation’s water sources. Thirty-five percent of underground water leaks through, as caused by the deteriorating infrastructures that haven’t been replaced in the decades since they were first put in place.
  8. In June 2015, the water crisis in Egypt led to the city of Bilquas and its 50,000 inhabitants being without water for an entire week. This type of scarcity leads to an annual state of emergency, where many towns do not have any access to water. The town of Ezbit Al-Taweed also suffered from the water crisis. Every day government trucks of water travel to the city who have no access to water.
  9. Water prices have skyrocketed because of the water crisis in Egypt. Dozens of people wait in lines outside shops and kiosks and the price of a 1.5-litre bottle can jump from three pounds to 10 pounds within a matter of days.
  10. In desperation for water, people have succumbed to illegally digging for water sources in their backyards. Due to the illegality of such digging, the water is not treated, leaving people to drink water infused with high amounts of magnesium, iron, and sodium. This water has been the cause of 13 percent of all child deaths in the country.

For now, water sources in Egypt are still hard to come by. Government officials have announced a plan to replace underground infrastructure within the next decade. Through the hopelessness, this leaves hope for the people of Egypt.

Maria Rodriguez

Photo: Flickr

Egypt’s poorest and most vulnerable people are receiving special care. This is the result of the country’s fundamental economic reforms, made possible with the help of a $12 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Egypt’s economic reforms are creating some short-term difficulties, including high inflation, but ultimately should lead to greater growth and more jobs for the nation.

The reforms are intended to solve long-term economic challenges in Egypt. The challenges include an overvalued exchange rate, large deficits in the Egyptian budget, high unemployment, and slow growth. To address these challenges, Egypt’s government is pursuing economic reforms including a floating exchange rate, a value added tax (VAT) and a reduction of fuel subsidies.

Egypt’s economic reforms should produce long-term benefits for the country, in particular, increasing economic growth and job creation. They should also help limit inflation to single digits.

As anticipated by the government, the reforms are creating immediate challenges for Egypt’s businesses and consumers. Businesses are feeling the effects of the Egyptian pound’s devaluation as production costs have risen sharply. Consumers are being hit with a spike in short-term inflation, along with the new VAT.

Helped by the IMF loan, the government is taking steps to mitigate these short-term effects on Egypt’s poor and vulnerable populations, especially women and children. The Egyptian government has committed to spending an additional percentage point of its GDP — about 33 billion Egyptian pounds — on programs for the poor and vulnerable.

These funds will be used to increase food subsidies, provide for cash transfers to low-income families and the elderly and other targeted social programs. These additional social programs include free school meals, vocational training for youth, and support for children’s medicines and infant milk. Additionally, the government will provide gas connections in poor districts.

As the IMF points out, the government intends for Egypt’s economic reforms to benefit all the people of Egypt. The reforms will cause some short-term disruption and difficulties to them, especially the poor and vulnerable. However, the government is addressing those difficulties by strengthening the country’s social safety net so all Egyptian citizens can make the transition to a better life.

Robert Cornet

Photo: Flickr

Water Quality in Egypt
The Nile River, also known as the longest river in the world, passes through Egypt. Water quality in Egypt is of paramount importance. Many Egyptians rely on the Nile for drinking and bathing water because of the river’s size and location.

Unfortunately, many cases of water pollution in the Nile River have been reported, resulting in mass poisonings. The Egyptian Government blames the low water levels of the Nile, the presence of fish farms on the Rosetta Branch and the dumping of waste directly into agricultural banks.

Because of Egypt’s rapidly growing population, the abundance of clean water is more important than ever. Egypt is an arid country and therefore relies on rain from surrounding countries to aid in supplying them.

These factors alone are not enough. In response, Egypt’s Government has recently declared a state of extreme emergency in an attempt to find a solution for this crisis. Authorities have made this issue a priority in order to save and improve the lives of millions.

Regulations have been created to preserve and improve water quality. As a result, there have been conflicts between farmers and public officials relating to regulations on the amount of rice that can and should be grown. Farmers already have problems feeding their families and do not want to feel restricted with what they can grow.

Egypt also looks to develop awareness campaigns that will call for water-saving measures. The government hopes to team up with farmers in order to make Egypt a more water-conservative country.

USAID has been working with Egypt to address environmental issues leading to scarcity and pollution of water. USAID hopes to educate Egyptian residents on the dangers of water pollution as well as how to avoid it.

With the help of developing countries and cooperation between the government and farmers, the country hopes to improve the water quality in Egypt and avoid a deadly water crisis.

Casey Marx
Photo: Flickr

Hepatitis C Drugs
Three years ago, a 90% effective hepatitis C medication, called Sovaldi, was released by Gilead Sciences. A three-month round of treatment costs $84,000. Janssen Pharmaceuticals released its own drug, Simeprevir, at $66,000 per round of treatment, and other pharmaceutical companies like AbbVie and Zepatier charged similar prices as they released their own hepatitis C drugs.

Hepatitis C is a blood-borne disease that can lead to liver cirrhosis and liver cancer, as well as other neurological problems. Worldwide, there are four times as many patients infected with hepatitis C as there are with HIV. About 150 million people live with chronic hepatitis C and 500,000 people die of hepatitis C complications every year.

Before Gilead, Janssen and other companies developed their newer, more effective medications, hepatitis C patients were treated with ribivarin and interferon, an antiviral drug and an immune-system modulator. The drugs caused fatigue, nausea and depression, and after one year of treatment, only 50% of patients were cured.

The WHO added hepatitis C drugs to their list of essential medicines, which they update every two years and some pharmaceutical companies offered deals with low-income countries. Gilead, for example, sold Sovaldi for $900 per round of treatment in Egypt in 2014.

The Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative made a deal with an Egypt-based pharmaceutical company last spring to sell a highly effective drug combination for $300 per treatment round.

Hepatitis C is especially prevalent in Egypt, affecting over 10% of the population, because of a vaccination campaign in the 1960s and 70s where syringes were reused for multiple patients. The disease is so widespread that barbers wear gloves and use disposable razors. Hepatitis C has even been spread between family members through sharing toothbrushes and nail clippers.

However, 80% of new infections happen in medical centers; in response to these figures, UNICEF and the WHO are working with the Egyptian government to educate both clinicians and the general population about hepatitis C.

Many patients await treatment, but the Egyptian government anticipates treating 1 million people for hepatitis C in 2016. As the cost of treatment decreases and sterilization and infection control practices are improved, the presence of hepatitis C in Egypt and elsewhere will diminish.

Madeline Reding

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Egypt
For years, poverty in Egypt has been no anomaly. Over a quarter of the population lives below the national poverty line, and many have found it difficult to secure work in a turbulent economy.

From 1995 to 2000, poverty in Egypt began to recede. The percentage of the population living under the national poverty line decreased from 23% to under 17%. However, progress began to reverse itself. In 2010, over 25% of the population was living under the national poverty line.

This rate has failed to drop since the Arab spring in 2011.

However, the Egyptian government and various international organizations have not been idle in addressing this problem. In recent years, millions of dollars have been donated to instill sustainable growth and development and to chip away at the current percentage of those living in poverty.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is at the forefront of international organizations helping Egypt achieve economic stability and poverty reduction. It has created a plan called the UNDP Strategic Plan 2014–2017 for Egypt. The plan prioritizes the elimination of poverty in Egypt.

UNDP’s strategies are wide-ranging and beginning to gain a great deal of traction due to Egypt’s recent governmental transition.

Human development, gender equality, environmental development, transparency and sustainable development are some of the many focuses that the UNDP has for the Egyptian people in an effort to make them self-sufficient in the long term.

The Egypt Network for Integrated Development (ENID) is a pilot program the UNDP is testing in Egypt. The premise of the program is to empower individuals in rural areas by upgrading public services and providing more efficient agricultural and off-farm occupations.

Through these efforts, people can build and grow their own businesses. This will promote sustainable economic growth and development in these areas long after ENID discontinues aid.

ENID has given a special focus to women through the course of its debut. Seventy percent of the 573 individuals employed by ENID’s activities between 2012 and 2014 were women.

Outside rural areas, the UNDP is also creating jobs in the most impoverished govern-orates for young men and women. The majority of these new jobs are for women.

These programs are working wonders among the Egyptian people, but unfortunately they are not free to operate. The Egyptian Government foots the bill of the majority of these programs, followed by Japan and a collection of European states and organizations. The total amount of contributions from these organizations is just over $280 million USD. In a country of nearly 90 million residents, this amounts to roughly $3 per person.

Tackling Poverty in Egypt

Despite great progress towards poverty reduction in Egypt, there must be bigger changes. Just recently, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi emphasized the need for foreign investment in large and small Egyptian enterprises. President Sisi pointed out that the government has made stellar improvements to the national infrastructure, but it still needs aid in developing businesses to use these new resources effectively.

By 2030, Egypt hopes to be well on its way toward sustainable development and a transparent governmental system. Though the country still needs help to develop its domestic affairs, many are optimistic that Egypt will be able to stand on its own within a decade.

Preston Rust

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Egypt
Poverty in Egypt is on the rise. Even before the events of 2011, the 2008 international economic slowdown dramatically decreased the growth and employment rates in Egypt. Soaring food prices from inflation worsened the situation, and growing disparities between rural and urban populations proved as much a cause for concern as steadily climbing poverty rates.

Poverty Growth in Egypt
Once at 9.5 percent before 2011, Egypt’s unemployment rate increased to 13.4 percent in the first quarter of 2014. Due to the current situation of the nation, revenue from tourism and remittance income have sharply decreased. Almost 300,000 Egyptian workers returned home due to turmoil in Libya and other parts of the region.

Egypt’s child poverty rates have also severely increased in recent years. Approximately 16.7 million children live below the poverty line. In addition, three-quarters of those children live in extreme poverty in rural areas.

Meanwhile, the economic downturn of Egypt affects more than just children. About half of the Egyptian population lives in poverty, and a quarter in extreme poverty.

Egyptian Energy Crisis
Currently, fixing the rising energy crisis of Egypt could drastically improve the nation’s poverty levels. In 2012, the estimated population of 81 million possessed a gross national income (GNI) of US $2,980 per capita.

Egypt’s GNI per capita increased by about 141 percent between 1980 and 2012, which caused a country-wide struggle to keep up with such high demand.

The GNI increase predominantly stems from the world’s energy demand. As of now, Egyptian energy demand rests at approximately 20 percent more than the country can handle, and Egyptians face the consequences of this inequality. In addition, numerous blackouts and fuel shortages also struck the nation in 2015.

More often than not, foreigners dominate the demand for Egyptian energy. In the past, former dictator Hosni Mubarak notoriously exported parts of Egypt’s own natural gas reserves at extremely low prices. Conducive for business but not for the economy, such a deal hindered rather than helped Egypt.

The country still possesses untapped gas fields traditionally mined by foreign companies, but foreign firms prove reluctant to extract more until the Egyptian government reimburses their overdue debts.

Assistance from Around the World
Thankfully, the collaboration of organizations across the globe can help Egypt combat their current situation.

The General Organization for Physical Planning (GOPP), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA), New Urban Communities Authority (NUCA), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) recently signed the “Strengthening Development, Planning and Management in Greater Cairo” project document in a ceremony held on the GOPP premises.

This initiative supports Egypt’s move towards promoting social justice, economic competitiveness (in a healthy market) and the overall improved provision of sustainable, public services.

The project plans to create and implement solutions for Greater Cairo in infrastructure, traffic, the environment and public utilities. These plans would establish a region that meets the needs of all its 21st-century individuals.

Poverty in Egypt is far from fixed. The government and humanitarian organizations must work to reduce poverty in Egypt and create a peaceful and prosperous nation.

With thousands of individuals in both urban and rural Egypt affected, the widespread pandemic of poverty is an urgent issue that the nation should address before more chaos ensues.

Veronica Ung-Kono

Nile Delta
In rural Egypt, the freshwater of the Nile River is a life-giving resource and the main supplier of drinking water; but, due to pollution from human and animal waste, the river is also deadly.

Annually, 5 percent of Egyptian deaths are the result of water contamination and lack of sanitation, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Currently, there are as few as 500 rural waste treatment plants in operation throughout more than 5,500 rural villages, with only 37 percent of rural households being covered by a public sewage line.

This lack of sanitation infrastructure is a serious health risk to rural residents because of water contamination. Diarrhea, typhoid fever and E. coli are just a few of the life-threatening illnesses that result from inadequate waste treatment and storage.

In order to fight back against the mounting problem of untreated wastewater seeping or being dumped into the Nile, the World Bank has pledged $550 million to improve existing sanitation facilities in the rural Delta as well as create new sanitation systems throughout Daqahliya, Sharqiya and Beheira in Lower Egypt.

The Sustainable Rural Sanitation Services Program for Results, approved in July 2015 and set to end in October 2020, is designed to restructure the existing centralized system to create a decentralized system, giving local water and sanitation companies (WSCs) within the Nile Delta the ability to expand and cover larger areas while improving their service.

Through this decentralized approach, WSCs are able to generate more local jobs, improving not only the health of poor rural residents but also their economic standing.

Using a bottom-up business model, WSCs are held responsible through a performance-based capital grant (PBCGs) from the Central Government, ensuring empowered employment and quality service to their communities.

The Sustainable Rural Sanitation Services Program for Results is set to serve 769 villages in seven governorates that have a history of releasing untreated wastewater into tributaries of the Nile.

The program will benefit the health and socio-economic status of rural villages as well as aid in preserving the Nile, the largest source of Egyptian freshwater, constituting 98 percent of drinking water.

The program also protects against untreated human waste seeping into the groundwater, leaving impoverished Egyptians with contaminated drinking water. By the end of the five-year period, an estimated 800,000 poor Egyptians will have benefitted from the program.

Claire Colby

Sources: American Institute of Science, World Bank 1, World Bank 2, WHO, International Water and Technology Conference
Photo: The Chronicle Herald

In Cairo, drinking tap water is considered to be a game with rules similar to Russian roulette — the possibility of dying is high. The concentration of bacteria in the water is astounding and the majority of the population living in Cairo’s slums does not have access to the hot water necessary to cook and bathe.

On average, it takes a mother seven hours to bathe her children. She must retrieve water from a well and carry it in a bucket back to her home before warming it up on the stove before she can give any of her children a bath.

To increase the availability of hot water for people living in Coptic Christian and Muslim communities in Cairo, Solar Cities install environment-friendly solar panels on the rooftops of houses in the city’s poorer neighborhoods.

Solar Cities was started by two science Ph.D. recipients, Dr. TH Culhane and Dr. Sybille Culhane. The pair is currently working on their project, C.3.I.T.I.E.S., which stands for Connecting Community Catalysts Integrating Technologies for Industrial Ecology Solutions.

Dr. TH — Thomas Taha Rassam — Culhane’s project succeeds in generating 200 liters of hot water and 200 liters of cold water for each household every day. More than 30 solar water heaters line housetops in Cairo, providing many families with access to usable and drinkable water.

Situated primarily in the Coptic Christian community of Zabaleen and Darb Al-Ahmar, an Islamic neighborhood, Culhane works not only on providing residents with access to water but also on bringing the two communities closer together.

The idea for Solar Cities came to Culhane after he worked on projects in the Dayak of Boneo and Itza Maya jungle villages in Guatemala, and to gain a better understanding of the struggles of living under these conditions, Culhane and his wife moved into an apartment in Zabaleen.

There, they were able to gather practical knowledge on what issues needed to be resolved, namely finding an environmentally friendly way of gaining access to clean water.

The duo has since worked on increasing solar energy and clean water in Cairo and spreading innovative ideas throughout the Zabaleen and Darb Al-Ahmar communities.

As two science educators, they work to make their projects fun and interactive for all of their colleagues and the people they assist with the belief that creativity can lead to innovation, which in turn will make the world a more environmentally sustainable place.

Julia Hettiger

Sources: Matador Network, Egypt Independent, National Geographic
Photo: Google Images

New Wheels in Cairo: The Benefits of Egypt's Scrapping and Recycling
At 7 a.m. every Friday and Saturday, members of the Cairo Runners Club wake up and prepare to hit the soon-to-be crowded streets of Egypt’s capital. Yet these intrepid urban runners are not trying to exercise before work—the weekend actually has already begun (an Egyptian weekend lasts from Friday to Saturday).

Their early waking is rather a matter of health and safety than of discipline. By rising with the sun, they can avoid the noxious air pollution and congested streets that perpetually plague Egypt’s capital.

In fact, according to environmental data from the World Health Organization (WHO), Cairo is more polluted than even Beijing, Bangkok and Mexico City. It has a level of fine particulate that is seven times the WHO standards. These extreme levels of pollution often can lead to heart disease and cancer.

In order to curb air pollution, the Egyptian government has turned to a variety of strategies, including banning the burning of waste and spending more on public transportation. One program that is showing promising results is an initiative supported by the World Bank, which aims to replace old and inefficient mass-transit vehicles in the city.

The program, named Egypt Vehicle Scrapping and Recycling Program, provides cash incentives of up to 5,000 Egyptian Pounds, roughly 640 U.S. dollars, to taxi owners to relinquish and recycle their aging vehicles.

The Egypt recycling program also uses operating licenses to leverage compliance. Mass transit vehicles older than 20 years can no longer receive new operating licenses. Before the program, the age of the average taxi in Cairo was a whopping 32 years. Vehicles this old suffer from poor safety ratings, bad reliability and lack the catalytic converters that filter out pollutants from an engine’s exhaust.

Although the program is reinvigorating the transit fleet in Cairo, its effectiveness does not necessarily extend beyond the metropolitan area. In fact, since the program does not prescribe the method for disposing of these aging vehicles, owners can sell parts to private parties where the law is not in effect.

The Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency also outlined a variety of challenges this program must face in order to succeed. First of all the program requires the complete motivation and organization of the vehicle owners, traffic department and the Ministry of the Interior.

The first project of its kind worldwide, the program also was entering uncharted waters and therefore only a small number could provide the required services. The complexities of Egyptian bureaucracy were also noted as hindrances to the program and would require attentiveness in order to coordinate affairs.

Nonetheless, since the program has been initiated in 2010, the World Bank has reported noticeable improvements. It estimates that during 2013 and in 2014, the program prevented over 130,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions. The program also has exchanged an impressive total of 40,689 old taxis with new taxis in Cairo alone.

Many of the old taxis were in excess of 50 years old, well above the already high average of 32 years. As Cairo replaces more of its aging taxis it can expect cleaner skies and perhaps even more runners.

Andrew Logan

Sources: The World Bank 1, The World Bank 2, United Nations Environment Program, Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency, USA Today
Photo: Flickr