With a growing population of 99.8 million, Egypt is the most populous country in North Africa and the Arab world, and an influential geopolitical actor in the region.
In line with the Egypt Vision 2030, a ten-pillar roadmap towards achievement of the 2030 Agenda, launched in 2016, the country has transformed the design, delivery and scope of national social protection programmes and the National School Feeding Programme to better support vulnerable groups.
These reforms contributed to an improved real gross domestic product, which reached 5.6 percent in June 2019 – a significant improvement compared to 4.2 percent in June 2017. However, Egypt still faces a set of long-standing development challenges, including poverty, food insecurity, malnutrition, spatial and social disparity, gender-based inequality as well as climate shocks.
According to the 2019 Global Hunger Index, Egypt suffers from a moderate level of hunger, ranking 61 of 117 countries, compared to 61 of 119 countries in 2018. Food affordability, quality and safety remain challenges as Egypt continues to rely on global markets for more than half of its staples. Malnutrition is another growing public health concern, with a 21.4 percent stunting rate, 16 percent overweight and/or obesity rate, and 5.5 percent underweight rate of children under 5 years of age.
Through the National Strategic Plan for Pre-University Education (2014-2030), the Government aims to achieve full coverage through its National School Feeding Programme and to increase the nutritional value of school meals to meet 50 percent of student’s nutritional requirements. Moreover, with an increasing awareness of the need to promote gender equality, the National Council for Women launched the National Strategy for Women’s Empowerment 2030, addressing key underlying challenges, including high education dropout rates and low women economic participation.
To help address Egypt’s development challenges, the work of the World Food Programme (WFP) in the country emphasizes institutional support in social protection, food security and nutrition; innovation in development; rural communities' long-term resilience to climate change; and knowledge and technology transfer for South-South and triangular cooperation. With a total of 258,433 refugees and asylum seekers registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Egypt as of February 2020, WFP implements the “One Refugee Policy” to assist the most food insecure refugees regardless of their nationality.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, WFP is supporting government efforts to assist vulnerable groups by securing food and nutrition security; building resilience for improved livelihood, employability and recovery from economic shocks; and strengthening national institutional capacities to improve targeting of at-risk populations. WFP works in partnership with the Government and is closely cooperating with UN agencies, non-governmental organizations, private sector partners and civil society organizations to ensure an effective response to the crisis.
What the World Food Programme is doing in Egypt
WFP in Egypt is supporting the Government respond to the COVID-19 crisis and is the first on the ground providing much-needed assistance to vulnerable affected communities. WFP is taking concrete steps to expand its assistance to reach more families with cash transfers to protect them against livelihood risks and deprivation caused by the COVID-19 economic shock, primarily targeting families of children and teachers in community schools, casual and informal sector workers and female-headed households.
Due to the closure of all schools, the modality for distribution of in-school snacks is being adjusted. WFP will continue to provide families of children in community schools (one-classroom schools built in remote areas) with food vouchers waiving the attendance conditionality previously enforced. An additional 5,000 families who suffered the negative impact of the COVID-19 crisis will receive unrestricted cash assistance.
Supporting Pregnant and Nursing refugee and asylum-seeking women
During the COVID-19 emergency, WFP is waiving the conditionality of periodic medical health visits for the receipt of assistance to pregnant and nursing refugees, who will receive cash assistance to ensure their minimum food needs are met. This is to discourage women from going to medical centers to protect them from risks of COVID-19. WFP is extending this support to more than nine nationalities of refugee and asylum seeking pregnant and nursing women during this time of emergency.
WFP supports vulnerable communities in rural Upper Egypt and border governorates in improving their resilience to socio-economic shocks and climatic changes through various interventions including the rehabilitation of assets, technology transfer and diversification of incomes. Activities that do not entail human interaction are continuing during the COVID-19 crisis while group activities such as awareness-raising sessions have been put on hold based on the Government’s curfews and suspension of public gatherings.
As part of support measures to the national social safety nets during the COVID-19 crisis, WFP will provide cash transfers to the most vulnerable Egyptian pregnant women and mothers of children under 2 years of age. Women will receive a top-up to their national Takaful cards to be used through the existing Government’s retailer’s system to redeem nutritious food baskets after the temporary exemption of the condition of medical visits.
Support to Refugees and Asylum Seekers
WFP is scaling up its assistance to refugees and asylum seekers affectted by the COVID-19 crisis to reach a total of 150,000 beneficiaries. WFP Egypt is temporarily switching its assistance from food vouchers to unrestricted cash redeemed through a financial service provider. This allows refugees and asylum seekers to redeem their assistance from any of the 125,000 service points available across Egypt minimizing mobility and risks of exposure to COVID-19, especially with the state-imposed partial curfews.
Support to casual labour workers
As part of WFP’s COVID-19 response, WFP has agreed with the Ministry of Manpower and other stakeholders to provide 20,000 families (100,000 total beneficiaries) of affected casual labour workers with unconditional cash transfers for four months to mitigate job and income loss.