Poverty, Food Insecurity Rise Sharply in Egypt

Human Wrongs Watch

Rome – Poverty and food insecurity in Egypt have risen significantly over the last three years, according to a joint report released on 21 May 2013 by the United Nations food agency and partners*.

More than 40 per cent of the average household’s expenditure in Egypt goes towards food; for the poorest families its more than half their budgets. Photo: WFP/Marco Frattini

More than 40 per cent of the average household’s expenditure in Egypt goes towards food; for the poorest families its more than half their budgets. Photo: WFP/Marco Frattini

An estimated 13.7 million Egyptians or 17 per cent of the population suffered from food insecurity in 2011, compared to 14 per cent in 2009, according to the report by UN World Food Programme (WFP) and the Egyptian Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS).

“This increase in food insecurity, malnutrition and poverty rates has not happened overnight, during this year or even during the past year,” said WFP Egypt Representative and Country Director GianPietro Bordignon.

Rising Poverty Rates

“People’s inability to have adequate and nutritious food is largely attributed to rising poverty rates and a succession of crises from 2005 – including the avian influenza epidemic in 2006, the food, fuel and financial crises of 2007–09 and a challenging macroeconomic context in recent years.”

The report also shows that twice as many people moved into poverty as moved out, with less money to spend on food, according to The Status of Poverty and Food Security in Egypt: Analysis and Policy Recommendations based on analysis of the CAPMAS 2011 Household Income and Expenditure and Consumption Survey (HIECS).

The Poorest Families

Findings show that the poorest families spend more than half of their average households on food and often buy less expensive, less nutritious food.

Malnutrition is up, with 31 per cent of children under five years of age stunted, up from 23 per cent in 2005. The UN World Health Organization (WHO) considers the “high” range of 30-39.

“Stunting, reflecting chronic malnutrition is irreversible and stops children reaching their full physical and mental potential,” WFP said in a news release. “In nine governorates across all regions in 2011, just over half of children under five were estimated to suffer from anaemia, classified as a ‘severe public health problem’ by the WHO.”

Food subsidies in the form of a ration card system in Egypt “are not designed to resolve all poverty-related challenges,” according to a joint policy paper released today by WPF and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

Nearly 70 per cent of the population receives ration cards but 19 per cent of the most vulnerable population are excluded, according to ‘Tackling Egypt’s Rising Food Insecurity in Times of Transition.’

“Owing to a succession of crises and worsening poverty, food security in Egypt started to deteriorate as early as 2005,” says this report.

These crises included the avian influenza epidemic in 2006; the food, fuel, and financial crises of 2007–2009; a further rallying of global food prices starting in late 2010; and the challenging macroeconomic context that followed political instability in the wake of the 2011 revolution, it adds.

“Household food insecurity and child malnutrition have risen significantly, and food subsidies are an important part of the country’s safety net. In the current economic climate of constrained government resources, increasing efficiencies in the subsidy system can facilitate investment in job creation and targeted food security and nutrition interventions.”

Politically feasible policy options include improving the efficiency of supply chains, improving the targeting of subsidies, and complementing subsidies with targeted nutrition and income generation programs, according to the report.

*Source: UN release

Read also:

Whither Egypt (II) – Economic Bankruptcy

Whither Egypt (I) – Did You Say Dictatorship?

What Happened to Egypt’s Dream of Religious Freedom?

US-backed Egyptian Regime Inflames Sectarian Violence

2013 Human Wrongs Watch

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