2.6 mln Egyptian women wish to postpone pregnancy but lack awareness, resources: Deputy health minister

Habiba Hamdy, Tuesday 27 Sep 2022

2.6 million Egyptian women wish to postpone pregnancy but lack awareness and resources to do so, said Deputy Minister of Health and Population Tarek Tawfik, citing intense poverty, physical isolation and a lack of female doctors as the key drivers.

Egyptian women


Due to such problems, Tawfik stated that the government’s family planning campaigns are primarily focused in Upper Egypt and Egypt’s rural areas.

Tawfik’s remarks came during an interview with DMC channel on Monday evening on the occasion of World Contraception Day 2022, where he talked about the government’s family planning efforts.

He clarified that intense financial hardship and lack of transport across large distances to reach medical professionals are also major challenges.

Moreover, he stated that family planning is traditionally thought of in very narrow terms while in reality it encompasses multiple factors such as female reproductive health, awareness, youth empowerment, financial empowerment of women and women’s education.

Women’s education, in particular, has a direct effect on lowering birth rates as does female financial empowerment, he stated.

Very importantly, he said, family planning fights poverty as a whole and hence has a growth/development aspect.

Its developmental aspect incurs many benefits, said Tawfik, including cessation of unplanned pregnancy, decreases in abortion and better educational opportunities for women.

As the country seeks to lower its rate of population growth, Egypt annually spends over EGP 100 million (approximately $5.2 million) to offer family planning methods for free or at lowered prices, according to health ministry spokesperson Hossam Abdel-Ghaffar.

Tawfik noted that the fertility rate per woman in 2021 declined to 2.8, from 3.5 in 2014.

In August, adviser to the chairman of the Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics (CAPMAS) Hussein Abdel-Aziz said that Egypt aims to reduce the fertility rate to 1.6 births per woman.

From his side, Tawfik indicated that by 2030 the number may be down 2.4 but that is not enough because it will not decrease population levels.

The country's 103-million-plus population is estimated to grow to 153.7 million by 2050, which would require the state to double its infrastructure projects and development spending over the coming 30 years, according to official figures.

The population has increased by 14 million in just the past seven years, as reported by CAPMAS.

In recent years, the government has taken several steps to tackle the consequences of overpopulation.

In 2020, Egypt launched a two-year initiative called "Two Is Enough" to encourage families to have fewer children.

Last year, the health ministry began providing all forms of contraception to women free of charge.

In late February, President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi launched the National Project for Developing the Egyptian Family, which tackles the health, social, family and economic dimensions of the crisis.

Success stories

Examples of countries in East Asia can provide some insight, Tawfik stated.

Both Vietnam and Singapore imposed a child limit of two per family with high rates of success in only 10 to 12 years. There were legal consequences to those who exceeded the limit such as higher taxes, no subsidies for accommodation and no allowance for bank loans in Vietnam, he noted.

It is important to note that Vietnam has a female labour force participation rate of 70 percent, with female illiteracy no higher than five percent, Tawfik stated.

Egypt, in comparison, only has a 15 percent female labour force participation rate, according to the World Bank.

In August, CAPMAS said the unemployment rate in Egypt in Q2/2022 was 7.2 percent, with 1.25 million unemployed males and 901,000 unemployed females.

Egypt needs localised solutions, Tawfik said, that are applicable to its unique situation and challenges.

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