Although classified as a middle-income country, Egypt still faces a set of development challenges characterized by substantial regional disparities with the rural parts of Upper Egypt having the lowest socio-economic standards. The country has further suffered from the effects of the political transitions following the January 2011 revolution. Egypt was ranked 112 out of 187 countries in the 2012 UNDP Human Development Index.
Consequently, the country has witnessed a challenging economic context marked by slow economic growth with a 2.1 percent real GDP growth for 2012/2013 compared to an average of 6.2 in previous years. The country is facing the challenge of feeding an increasing population, which reached 83.7 million in 2013 compared to 72.8 million in 2005. Young people between 18-29 years old represent a quarter of the Egyptian population, and slightly over half of them are impoverished and unemployed.
Egypt is the world’s largest importer of wheat, and is highly vulnerable to fluctuations in international food prices. A joint study conducted by WFP and the Egyptian government, shows that poverty rates have increased to 25.2 percent (20.1 million) in 2011, while 4 million people live in extreme poverty compared to 21.6 per cent in 2009. The prevalence of food insecurity has also increased to 17.2 percent (13.7 million people) in 2011 compared to 14 per cent in 2009, and poor dietary diversity continues to be the most compelling aspect of food insecurity in Egypt. Chronic malnutrition (stunting) among children under5 is a concern, recent estimates show that 31 percent of children in this age group are stunted, which is classified as “High” by WHO. On the other hand, obesity and overweight are estimated to affect 72 percent of women between 20 and 50 years, highlighting the burden of double malnutrition in Egypt.
Only 5 percent of Egypt’s land is arable – affected by land degradation, desertification and climate change- also challenging food security. In Upper Egypt, 51.5 percent of the population are poor and suffering from weather induced crop failures; food production is expected to decline by a further 30 percent by 2050 as a result of climate change.
Poverty continues to be the main barrier to education in Egypt. The Egyptian Government invests US$60 million annually in the National School Feeding Programme, which reaches 5.3 million of the 17 million school pupils. However, food distribution is not consistent in all schools throughout the academic year, and girls living in rural areas are least likely to attend schools. There is at least 1.6 million children involved in hazardous work in Egypt.
Finally, Egypt witnesses regional volatility and host the influx of refugees escaping from conflict areas, most recently from Syria, where over 100,000 refugees registered with UNHCR, highlighting the need for emergency preparedness.