WFP today welcomed a contribution €2 million (US$2.7 million) from the European Commission (EC) for development projects for Bedouin communities in the Sinai, northeast of Egypt.
“We are extremely grateful for this generous donation to help a poor community already having to adapt to the demands of a settled lifestyle after centuries of nomadic existence,” said Bishow Parajuli, WFP Representative to Egypt.
Despite overall positive economic indicators in Egypt, the Bedouin communities in Sinai suffer from high levels of poverty, food insecurity and malnutrition. South Sinai Bedouins also live with inadequate housing, a severe shortage of drinking water and limited educational opportunities.
Use of the funds
The funds, which are being channelled through the South Sinai Regional Development Project, will help establish basic schools and health centres, and reclaim some 1,000 feddans (405 hectares) as agricultural plots for families.
They will also support the construction of a small dam in Zaghra valley near Dahab city, for drinking and irrigation water.
In co-operation with the Government of Egypt, WFP will use the funds to create individual and communal assets – like basic school, health centres and water supplies – to help improve livelihoods and living standards among over 12,000 Bedouins, half of them women, in the poorest areas of south Sinai.
The project includes improving the housing conditions and access to drinking water as well as educational and health services.
According to a joint study by WFP and Egypt’s National Nutrition Institute, as many as 40 percent of children under five suffer from stunting while nearly 19 percent of the same group suffer from acute malnutrition or wasting. Inadequate diet affects 85 percent of children and mothers.
Literacy rates are also very low, especially among girls, reaching less than 10 percent in some communities.
“The EC is very interested in development schemes that empower people and help them become self-reliant. For example, apart from construction of physical infrastructures such as schools, health posts, and nutritional support, this project includes training sessions for Bedouins on agricultural extension skills, small livestock production, and tourism-related skills particularly foreign languages,” said Dr. Klaus Ebermann, EU Ambassador to Egypt.
The three-year project will also include microcredit schemes such as funds to start up small herds. The Governorate of South Sinai is also actively exploring ways to engage the Bedouins in the booming tourism industry.
WFP will also use the funds to provide school meals for up to 5,000 pupils to improve their nutrition and give them an incentive to attend classes regularly.
School meals not only alleviate hunger and boost enrolment and attendance, but also improve children’s ability to concentrate and learn.
The proposed project will be implemented by the official Sinai Development Project, while different ministries will participate to ensure the provision of services in the newly developed sites. Other government authorities, such as the National Nutrition Institute and the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood, will also support the project.
WFP has delivered US$637.2 million in development assistance to Egypt since it began operations in 1963. It recently signed a new five-year programme (2007-2011) worth US$44 million to focus on technical assistance to strengthen the Government’s capacity to reform its safety-net programmes and address the food needs of the poor.