Several campaigns were launched to bolster awareness about family planning
On Monday Egypt’s population stood at 104.6 million, according to the Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics (CAPMAS). And it is forecast to reach 160 million by 2050, according to a report by Egypt’s Cabinet Information, Decision, and Support Centre (IDSC).
In an attempt to put a break on the exponential growth of the population, the government is hoping to create awareness through various campaigns. A survey will be carried out to explore youth attitudes towards a wide range of topics related to population trends. The survey, which will sound out 17,000 young people, began this month and is scheduled to continue throughout March. It is being carried out in partnership with the Population Council, a US NGO.
Also this month, a new initiative called Osra (family) was launched to provide young Egyptians with information on voluntary family planning and reproductive health options for healthy and sustainable child spacing. The project is being implemented by Pathfinder International through a $39 million grant by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). It is also in collaboration with various concerned authorities, including the Ministry of Health.
US Charge d’Affaires Daniel Rubinstein said he recognises the importance of progress in this area to overcome the economic development challenges that Egypt faces “because even with all the economic policy reforms and other progress in this area, if the population continues to grow, that could undermine the impact of economic development.” The United States has been a strong partner to Egypt for many years in voluntary family planning and reproductive health, providing $435 million to Egypt throughout the last 30 years, according to Rubinstein.
The programme will utilise new technology and digital platforms to enable youths to access information that allows them to make the right kinds of choices when they are starting a family.
Osra will work in 10 governorates, mostly in Upper Egypt. The five-year programme targets 10.6 million people in 625 communities in the governorates of Sharqiya, Fayoum, Sohag, and Assiut, with plans to expand to Beheira, Daqahliya, Giza, Beni Sweif, Minya, and Qena in the future.
According to Mohamed Abu Nar, a leading figure in Osra, work includes increasing women and men’s access to high-quality voluntary family planning information, counselling, contraceptive methods, and services delivered by competent healthcare providers with focus on digital technology integrations to improve access to and demand for reproductive health information and services. It will work on building knowledge about reproductive health.
For decades the government has said that population growth strains government resources. Throughout the past four decades it launched several campaigns aimed at creating awareness in family planning. In the 1980s the campaign Esaal Estashher (ask, consult) offered free family planning methods and consultations. In 2020 Etnein Kefaya (two are enough) offered financial assistance to families deemed successful in family planning.
According to a 2022 World Bank study, “Achieving the Demographic Dividend in the Arab Republic of Egypt: Choice, Not Destiny,” high population growth caused the working age of the population to decrease from 63 per cent in 2010 to 61 per cent in 2020. The report recommends that the problem of overpopulation could be solved through a six-pillar approach which includes expanding the capacity of the Ministry of Health in providing family planning services while focusing on building human resources. It also targets reducing female school dropouts and empowering females.
The report showed that in Brazil, for example, improvements in schooling for girls accounted for 70 per cent of the fertility decline observed in the country during the 1960s and 1970s. The report also recommended increasing the female labour force and delaying early marriages as well as leveraging social protection programmes like expanding the Takaful and Karama programme to promote women’s education and have access to health services.
* A version of this article appears in print in the 2 March, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly