Current issues and what the World Food Programme is doing
What are the current issues in Egypt
Egypt is the most populous country in North Africa and the Arab world with a population of 89 million. Despite being classified as a middle-income country, Egypt faces a set of long-standing development challenges.
The Egyptian economy continues to suffer the adverse economic impact of the political transitions following the January 2011 revolution; the macroeconomic gains reaped from financial and economic reforms during 2005-2010 were soon reversed into foreign capital outflows and a prolonged period of economic slowdown from 2011 until 2014. However, over the last year Egypt has seen greater security and political stability and for the first time since the revolution, economic growth is significantly picking up.
Overall, there are increasing signs of economic recovery in Egypt and there are prospects of even higher growth for the rest of 2015 and 2016, which has driven the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and international credit rating agencies to upgrade Egypt’s economic outlook in 2014/2015.
While food is adequately available in markets and production has seen an upward trend over the last ten years, Egypt remains highly dependent on food imports and remains the world’s largest importer of wheat and is therefore highly vulnerable to fluctuations in global commodity prices. Despite that, a joint study conducted by WFP and the Egyptian government highlighted that food insecurity in Egypt remains mainly an issue of households’ access to food rather than of food availability. Food insecurity in Egypt is mainly driven by increasing poverty and the diminishing purchasing power of the most vulnerable sections of the population.
The Egyptian government implements a large national food subsidy system that covers almost 80 percent of the population. However, in spite of the wide-reaching food subsidy programme in Egypt, a sheer percent of the population are food insecure and about 19 percent of the poor are not included under the current system.
The Egyptian government has a national school feeding programme in place that aims at increasing school attendance rates, however, a large number of schools remain untargeted, especially community schools.
WFP supports the Egyptian government’s school feeding initiative to reach out to a larger number of schools through providing food incentives in community schools – one-classroom schools built in remote areas – to encourage parents to send their children, especially girls, to school and keep them there. WFP focuses on girls living in rural areas as they are much less likely to attend school due to cultural norms such as early marriage as well as economic burdens that push their families to send them off to work instead of school. In 2015, WFP is scaling up its school feeding programme through a European Union-funded project singed in July 2014. Through this project WFP will be reaching this year more than one million children and their families in 16 of Egypt’s most vulnerable governorates.
What the World Food Programme is doing in Egypt
WFP has been operating in Egypt since 1968 and has provided until 2014 over US$681 million worth of assistance to the country. WFP projects in Egypt aim to improve food security, nutritional status and access to socio-economic opportunities amongst the most vulnerable segments of the population. Particular emphasis has been placed on meeting the needs of women and children.
WFP is scaling up its operations through a partnership agreement signed in July 2014 with the European Union (EU). The four-year project, covering 2014-2017, combats child labour and helps vulnerable children, especially girls, get an education. This €60-million project – Enhancing Access of Children to Education and Fighting Child Labour – will enable WFP to reach an additional 100,000 children together with 400,000 of their family members in 16 of the most vulnerable governorates in Egypt.
WFP operations in Egypt are designed to respond to the country’s long-term food and nutrition insecurity as well as providing funding for social safety nets including school feeding and mother and child nutrition. WFP Egypt employs a comprehensive package of technical assistance in which national institutions are partners in development. And in line with government priorities, WFP will continue to support the capacity of national institutions to reduce poverty, food insecurity and under-nutrition.
WFP’s current activities in Egypt also include efforts to:
- Enable national institutions to systematically monitor and respond to food security risks, provide evidence-based analysis for food security policy, and support food-based social safety net reform efforts.
- Enhance access to nursery and primary education and combat child labour through food incentives given to children and their families to encourage enrolment and retention in schools.
- Enable poor communities in rural Upper Egypt and border governorates to adapt to climate change and market shocks, reduce agricultural losses through supporting national efforts to create sustainable livelihoods.
- Strengthen national capacity to prevent chronic malnutrition among the most vulnerable populations.
- Provide food assistance to vulnerable Syrian refugees residing in Egypt, upon the government’s request, as part of WFP’s Syria Regional Refugee Response.
Featured Egypt publications
A Country Brief provides the latest snapshot of the country strategy, operations, operational highlights (achievements and issues/challenges), partnerships and country background.
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