Poverty And Food Insecurity In Egypt On The Rise
A group of Egyptian men queuing for bread in a country where poverty and food security have risen significantly between 2009 and 2011. Some 15 percent of the population moved into poverty, twice the number who moved out of poverty.
Significant pockets of poverty and food insecurity are emerging in urban areas, where poverty increased by nearly 40 percent between 2009 and 2011; from 11 to more than 15 percent. Greater Cairo has a larger number of poor people in population terms, at more than 3.5 million, compared to the poorest governorates in Upper Egypt.
More than 40 percent of the average household’s expenditure goes towards food while the poorest families spend more than half their budgets on food. High food prices force the poorest households to rely on cheaper, calorie-dense and less nutritious food as a coping strategy. This adds to already poor dietary diversity and may contribute to a further deterioration in nutritional status.
A recent government figure shows that in 2011 stunting among children under age five has reached 31 percent (above the WHO’s “high” threshold of 30-39 percent).
WFP implements school feeding projects in the poorest governorates in Egypt. Through these projects WFP combats child labour and encourages girls’ education while at the same time tackling the nutritional status of school children.
During the school day, children receive a nutritious snack that covers 25 percent of the child’s daily nutritional needs. In 2013, more than half a million school children and their family members will benefit from WFP school feeding across the country.
In a country where half the children from 6 months to five years suffer from anaemia, WFP address this problem through introducing the fortification of wheat flour used for baking subsidised baladi bread. Enriching wheat flour with iron and folic acid is now a national project entirely managed and funded by the government.
Established in Egypt since the mid-1940s, food subsidies are a key part of the social safety net system and are seen by many Egyptians as one of the main government benefits. Subsidised bread in particular is central to Egyptian life and the Egyptian diet. However, the ration card system suffers from poor and limited targeting; it covers close to 70 percent of the population but excludes 19 percent of the most vulnerable households.
In Egypt, poverty and food security have risen significantly between 2009 and 2011. Some 15 percent of the population moved into poverty, twice the number who moved out of poverty.