Last week saw the launch of “Decent Life”, an initiative by President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi that hopes to provide better living conditions for the needy in 2019.
“As I looked at last year to search for the real hero of our nation, I found that the true hero is the Egyptian citizen who fought battles to survive and build courageously, and sacrificed and shared the burden of economic reforms for a better future for the coming generations,” Al-Sisi wrote on his official Facebook page on 2 January.
“That’s why,” Al-Sisi said, “I call on state institutions and agencies in coordination with civil society organisations to unite their efforts and coordinate to mobilise the efforts of the nation’s youth, men and women to launch a national initiative, directly under my auspices, to provide a decent life for needy communities in 2019.”
The president directed the government to take the necessary measures to implement the initiative to help improve services provided to those most in need, especially in Egypt’s villages.
Al-Sisi’s post enjoyed much feedback and was praised by state officials, institutions, politicians and civil society organisations. Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouli praised Al-Sisi’s initiative to improve the living conditions of the neediest in Egyptian society.
“The programme is targeting the most underprivileged sectors and individuals in Egypt’s impoverished and remote areas,” Minister of Social Solidarity Ghada Wali told DMC TV.
The new initiative will work on providing job opportunities and developing infrastructure, Wali said during the telephone interview, adding that it will serve as an umbrella for a number of civil society initiatives on employment, healthcare, services and infrastructure.
To jump-start the initiative Wali held a meeting with the 10 biggest NGOs in Egypt to discuss the plan and called on them to intensify their efforts and gather sufficient data on extremely poor towns and neighbourhoods to support them.
Mohamed Al-Okabi, media advisor to the Ministry of Social Solidarity, told Al-Ahram Weekly that Wali’s meeting with NGOs was meant to enable them to coordinate among themselves and implement the initiative.
“Such initiatives cannot be implemented by one organisation or state institution. All efforts must be made by the government, parliament and NGOs to let the initiative succeed in helping the neediest communities through a scientific framework,” Al-Okabi said, adding that all parties have welcomed the initiative and promised to provide the necessary support.
The cost of Decent Life, estimated at LE2 billion, will be partially funded by the Ministry of Finance and the rest through NGOs that will take part in the initiative.
A statement by the Ministry of Social Solidarity said services provided by the initiative range from providing decent housing to supplying water and sewage networks.
It also will provide health services and compensatory equipment for the handicapped, help needy brides entering marriage and provide job opportunities through micro-projects.
The ministry also announced the names of the 100 poorest villages in Egypt which the initiative will target. The villages are largely concentrated in Giza, Minya, Assiut, Sohag, Qena, Luxor, Aswan, the New Valley, Qalioubiya, Beheira, Marsa Matrouh and North Sinai. They all have a poverty rate of 70 per cent or more.
The Ministry of Housing also announced that many of its completed projects will be dedicated to the initiative.
Minister of Religious Endowments Mohamed Mokhtar Gomaa said during an interview with the TV channel Sada Al-Balad that the initiative reflects the high humanitarian aspect of President Al-Sisi. Gomaa, who stressed that the ministry will double its efforts in serving the community, used the Friday prayer on 4 January to speak about civil society, volunteer work and duty.
“We have agreed with the ministries of social solidarity and housing to support the initiative with LE100 million. A further LE50 million has already been transferred to housing projects for the neediest families. In addition, another LE100 million was allocated to support the Education Fund while LE20 million was allocated to the Fund of Special Needs,” Gomaa said.
According to the Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics (CAPMAS), some 30 million Egyptians (representing 28 per cent of the total population estimated at 104 million) were living below the poverty line in 2015.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 10 January, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the headline: Decent life for the neediest