Egypt's social initiatives: Reaching out to the most vulnerable

Reem Leila , Saturday 13 Jul 2019

Decent Life is the latest social initiative launched by the government to support those in need, reports Reem Leila

Reaching out to the most vulnerable

Decent Life is an initiative started by President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi for the most vulnerable groups of society.

The strategy targets 32 million people in Egypt’s poorest villages.

The first phase, already underway, will cost LE2 billion and will include 377 villages in 11 governorates, mostly in Upper Egypt. Around three million people will benefit from the initiative’s first phase which would provide these villages with potable water lines, building ceilings for roofless houses as well as distributing blankets and furniture.

According to Minister of Social Solidarity Ghada Wali, the ministry started with villages where the percentage of poverty exceeds 75 per cent.

The second phase will include the villages of Mersa Matrouh, Beheira, Qalioubiya Port Said, Kafr Al-Sheikh, Cairo and Menoufiya governorates where the percentage of poverty ranges from 50 per cent to 75 per cent.

The third phase will involve the villages of the Ismailia, Sharqiya, Daqahliya, Alexandria, Gharbiya, Damietta, Suez and Red Sea governorates where the percentage of poverty is less than 50 per cent.

“The ministry will provide 80 per cent of the initiative’s cost while the remaining 20 per cent will come from NGOs,” Wali said.

Medical convoys will visit villages and undertake surgeries as well as provide the disabled with prosthetic devices, including wheelchairs and crutches.

The first phase will also see the construction of 15 schools in the villages as well as providing its residents with job opportunities and helping them to establish small businesses, Nevine Al-Qabbag, deputy at the Ministry of Social Solidarity, told the press.

“The country is in dire need of radical solutions to solve the problem of poverty in Egypt. Although these initiatives are important and people need them, they are not a solution; they just act like tranquilisers,” Al-Qabbag said.

“These initiatives must be regular and continuous in order to be part of the solution and not just a sedative,” economist Magdi Sobhi, of Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies, said.  

Sobhi added that poverty in Egypt among illiterates is 37 per cent.

“The government must provide job opportunities to at least five million unemployed youths so as to help them support themselves as well as their families. Egypt must invest in people,” he added.

Many social initiatives have been initiated to help the poor, starting with cash transfer programmes like the Karama and Takaful (Dignity and Solidarity) initiatives and Kolena Wahed (We Are All One), under which residents of poor areas can get commodities with discounts from mobile outlets.

Um Sara, a house help, is a beneficiary of Takaful. She says she gets LE900 a month. To receive this money, and according to the conditions of the Takaful cash transfer scheme, Um Sara is committed to sending her three school-aged kids to school.

“This amount helps me in fulfilling many of my needs,” Um Sara said. “It also helped me to send my youngest son to a sports club as he is excellent in football. He wants to be a football player when he grows up.”

 *A version of this article appears in print in the 11 July, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the headline: Reaching out to the most vulnerable 

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