Hunger, poverty rates in Egypt up sharply over past three years – UN report

More than 40 per cent of the average household’s expenditure in Egypt goes towards food; for the poorest families its more than half their budgets. Photo: WFP/Marco Frattini

21 May 2013 – Poverty and food insecurity in Egypt have risen significantly over the last three years, according to a joint reports released today by the United Nations food agency and partners.

An estimated 13.7 million Egyptians or 17 per cent of the population suffered from food insecurity in 2011, compared to 14 per cent in 2009, according to the report by UN World Food Programme (WFP) and the Egyptian Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS).

“This increase in food insecurity, malnutrition and poverty rates has not happened overnight, during this year or even during the past year,” said WFP Egypt Representative and Country Director GianPietro Bordignon.

“People’s inability to have adequate and nutritious food is largely attributed to rising poverty rates and a succession of crises from 2005 - including the avian influenza epidemic in 2006, the food, fuel and financial crises of 2007–09 and a challenging macroeconomic context in recent years.”

The report also shows that twice as many people moved into poverty as moved out, with less money to spend on food, according to The Status of Poverty and Food Security in Egypt: Analysis and Policy Recommendations based on analysis of the CAPMAS 2011 Household Income and Expenditure and Consumption Survey (HIECS).

Findings show that the poorest families spend more than half of their average households on food and often buy less expensive, less nutritious food.

Malnutrition is up, with 31 per cent of children under five years of age stunted, up from 23 per cent in 2005. The UN World Health Organization (WHO) considers the “high” range of 30-39.

“Stunting, reflecting chronic malnutrition is irreversible and stops children reaching their full physical and mental potential,” WFP said in a news release. “In nine governorates across all regions in 2011, just over half of children under five were estimated to suffer from anaemia, classified as a ‘severe public health problem’ by the WHO.”

Food subsidies in the form of a ration card system in Egypt “are not designed to resolve all poverty-related challenges,” according to a joint policy paper released today by WPF and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

Nearly 70 per cent of the population receives ration cards but 19 per cent of the most vulnerable population are excluded, according to ‘Tackling Egypt’s Rising Food Insecurity in Times of Transition.’


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