28 Million Egyptians Living in Slums by 2025?

Human Wrongs Watch

By Baher Kamal*,  Cairo, July 2014 – A couple of years ago, some Egyptian media hailed reports by the UN World Health Organisation and the UN Human Settlements Programme on slums, by saying that the United Nations considers Egyptian “cemetery-slums” or “grave slums” as the best ever of their kind in this country of 95 million inhabitants.

A tomb retrofitted as a residence in the City of the Dead, Cairo, Egypt. | Author: Rgoogin | GNU Free Documentation License | Under Creative CommonsAttribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License | Wikimedia Commons

A tomb retrofitted as a residence in the City of the Dead, Cairo, Egypt. | Author: Rgoogin | GNU Free Documentation License | Under Creative CommonsAttribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License | Wikimedia Commons

But such statement was anything but accurate–in fact if Cairo’s large “cemetery-slum” , which is known as “City of the Dead”, could be somehow considered slightly better of than others, is just because it has been absorbed by the capital and therefore can in a way benefit from some of public facilities, such as water, power and public transport.

Apart from not being accurate, what probably these media did not expect is that the number of the current 10 million slum dwellers is estimated to grow to up to 28 million, i.e. one of four Egyptians by 2015.

A Full Ministry for Slums Only

Nor they possibly expected that the current austerity government would rush to create a full ministry to deal only with the worsening living conditions of the slum dwellers.

In fact, amidst harsh austerity measures –varying from sharply increasing fuel prices to raising public transport fees and imposing higher taxes– aimed to bridge the country’s huge deficit gap, the first government of president Abdel Fattah Al Sissi included a ministry dedicated exclusively to the slums.

Just Some Facts

The official figures before thee Slums Minister, Laila Iskandar, can be summarized as follows:

— there are over 1,000 slums spreading along 20 Egyptian provinces, covering mostly farming lands, and inhabited by over 10 million dwellers, according to the Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics,

— Cairo hosts the largest share of the also called “poverty belts”, and there is an urgent need to develop around 80 slums and remove another dozen of them mainly for security reasons,

— 81 per cent of slum dwellers work in the informal sector, with 20 per cent of men unemployed,

— 38 per cent of all households living in slums rely on some 200 Egyptian pounds (less than 30 US dollars) per month,

— slums are estimated to increase in around 34 per cent in the coming decade, mainly due to population growth, the continued flow of internal migration, and the endemic lack of urban planning.

“What Can We Do?… We Are Poor”

What can we do? We are poor and you see the country… very bad situation. Nobody cares… they do not care if we are alive or dead,” says Ahmad Abed-Rabboh (19) dueller. “We have to live… they oblige us to do the worst things (jobs) and some have to steal.”

Amm Mohamdein (39) says “I grew up here (Cairo cemetery) and I have five sons a daughters. The three sons work as garbage collectors… many hours, just to bring some money to buy food for the family,” he says. “The governments, all of them, think only of making money for their pockets… but we are also humans.. we are also Egyptians.”

Mustafa Mahmoud (22) who is about to graduate as sociologist, says “It is not only about poverty. Egypt is a rich country; otherwise how could we reach the number of 95 million inhabitants and are still alive in spite of decades and decades of negligence and robbery.”

According to Mahmoud, “Less than 10 per cent of the people have 90 per cent of the money… is this possible? Is this fair?”

Religious preacher Sheik Abdallah (70) says that “God will judge all of them,” referring to politicians, businessmen and military officials who accumulated huge sums of fortune and send most of them abroad. “Islam does not want this; Islam wants the rich to share his fortune with the poor.”

For his part, Ali Hassan (27), an IT engineer who took active part in the two popular massive protests that deposed presidents Hosni Mubarak (inn 2011) and Mohamed Morsi (2013), expresses deep concern about thefuturee of youth in Egypt.

A Whole Generation Born in Slums

There is a whole generation of young Egyptians who were born and grew up in slums. They are a valuable human resource that the country badly needs but they are definitely lost,” he says.

We, the youth, raised our voices against this worsening social injustice and inequity… We hope that the “new Egypt” that is being built now will overcome this huge human drama and empower the youth to fully play their role.”

World Population Day

Meanwhile, the UN on 11 July celebrates the World Population Day 2014, which theme is “Investing in Young People”As the world population edged to 7 billion people in 2011 (up from 2.5 billion in 1950), it has had profound implications for development.

A world of 7 billion is both a challenge and an opportunity with implications on sustainability, urbanisation, access to health services and youth empowerment, according to the UN.

Today’s 1.8 billion young people are shaping social and economic realities, challenging norms and values, and building the foundation of the world’s future. Yet too many young people continue to grapple with poverty, inequality and human rights violations that prevent them from reaching their personal and collective potential.”

On 2014 World Population Day, the UN calls for investments in support of the largest-ever generation of youth.

Baher Kamal Bonn*Baher Kamal, Human Wrongs Watch publisher and editor,  is an Egyptian-born, Spanish national, secular, pro-peace journalist, who  strongly believes in the need for humans to live in harmony with nature, of which we are all part and to which we all belong.


**Central photo: A tomb retrofitted as a residence in the City of the Dead, Cairo, Egypt. | Author: Rgoogin | GNU Free Documentation License | Under Creative CommonsAttribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License | Wikimedia Commons

Read also: 

Half the World Is Under 25, and Half of Those Employed Are “Stuck in Low-wage, Dead-end jobs”

World’s Youth Facing Worsening Unemployment – UN Warns

World Youth: No Jobs, No Education; Big Frustration, Scare

Record Increase of Unemployed Youth–Additional 4.5 Millions Worldwide in One Year

Youth Unemployment To Worsen Everywhere

UN Warns of Possible ‘Lost Generation’ Amidst Economic Crisis

A Lost Generation Also in Rich, Industrialised Countries

The Lost Arab Generation

130 Million People Seeking Job? Try Again in Two, Three, Four Years …

Child Labour Returns to Europe

Who Dares to Challenge a 32 Billion Dollars Business – Human Trafficking? 

Financial Trafficking in Millions of Citizens Is Not ‘Illicit’!

Europeans, the Once Upon a Time Refugees!

2014 Human Wrongs Watch        

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