Although classified as a middle-income country, Egypt faces a set of development challenges characterized by substantial regional disparities with the rural parts of Upper Egypt ranking lowest on the socio-economic scale. The country has further suffered from the effects of the political transitions following the January 2011 revolution. Egypt was ranked 112 out of 187 countries in the 2012 UNDP Human Development Index.
Consequently, the country has witnessed a challenging economic context marked by a 2.1 percent real GDP growth for 2012/2013 compared to an average of 6.2 in previous years. The country is facing the challenge of feeding an increasing population, which reached 83.7 million in 2013 compared to 72.8 million in 2005. Young people between 18 to 29 years old represent a quarter of the Egyptian population, and slightly over half of them are impoverished and unemployed.
Egypt is the world’s largest importer of wheat and is highly vulnerable to fluctuations in international food prices. A joint study conducted by WFP and the Egyptian government that between 2009 and 2011, some 15 percent of the population moved into poverty, twice the number who moved out of poverty. The same study found that food insecurity has increased to 17.2 percent (13.7 million people) in 2011 compared to 14 per cent in 2009, and poor dietary diversity continues to be the most compelling aspect of food insecurity in Egypt. Data also suggests that rates of malnutrition, most notably stunting among children are also on the rise with recent estimates showing that 31 percent of children aged 6-59 months are stunted, which is classified as “high” by WHO.
Poverty continues to be the main barrier to education in Egypt. The Egyptian government invests US$60 million annually in the National School Feeding Programme, which reaches 5.3 million of the 17 million school pupils. However, food distribution is not consistent in all schools throughout the academic year, and girls living in rural areas are least likely to attend schools. There are at least 1.6 million children involved in hazardous work in Egypt.