With a population of 92.2 million, Egypt is the most populous country in North Africa and the Arab world. Despite being classified as a middle-income country, it faces a set of long-standing development challenges.
Over the last two years Egypt has seen greater security and political stability, which was reflected in growth rates surpassing the average growth for the Middle East and North Africa region. Egypt’s real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) increased by 4.3% in fiscal year 2016, similarly to what had happened in 2015. This was supported by the rapidly-growing sectors of construction, trade, telecommunications and general government services, while extraction, manufacturing, tourism and Suez Canal lagged behind.
Despite moderate economic growth, the unemployment rate remains persistently high, at 12.5% , with peaks of 25.6% amongst women, compared to 8.5% amongst men. Persistent unemployment links to increasing and high poverty rates which, according to official statistics, have increased from 26.3% in 2013 to 27.8% in 2015.
This was driven by increasing poverty rates in Upper Egypt, and especially its rural areas where 57% of the population fall below the income poverty line. Extreme poverty increased to 5.3% in 2015, compared to 4.4% in 2013.
About 16% of the total population have poor access to food – 21.3% in rural areas and 8.8% in urban areas. Food insecurity is highest in rural Upper Egypt where 38.7% of the population are estimated to have poor access to food.
A set of reforms including currency fluctuation and an increase in consumer taxes, introduced to accompany a US$ 12 billion rescue package agreed with the International Monetary Fund, is expected to affect domestic prices and the purchasing power of the lower and middle-income sectors of society. Consumer prices have seen a considerable increase since June/July 2016, and domestic inflation rates soared to unprecedented levels bat the beginning of 2017.
As the country remains highly dependent on food imports, currency fluctuations have a direct impact on food prices and families’ access to food. As the world’s largest importer of wheat, Egypt is also highly vulnerable to fluctuations in global commodity prices.
While food is generally available in markets and production has seen an upward trend over the last ten years, a few staple food commodities have seen market shortages during 2016, including rice, sugar and cooking oil. In spite of recent shortages in food markets, food insecurity in Egypt is mainly seen as an outcome of increasing poverty and the diminishing purchasing power of the most vulnerable sections of the population.
What the World Food Programme is doing in Egypt
School mealsWFP complements the Government’s school feeding initiative by providing food incentives in community schools – one-classroom schools built in remote areas – to encourage parents to send their children to school and keep them there. WFP has also expanded its school feeding activities to include Syrian refugee children enrolled in public schools.
Food securityWFP works to enable national institutions to systematically monitor and respond to food security risks, provide evidence-based analysis for food security policy, and support food-based social safety net reform efforts.
Resilience buildingWFP supports national efforts to enable vulnerable communities in rural Upper Egypt and border governorates to adapt to climate change and socio-economic shocks.
NutritionWFP contributes to strengthening national capacity to prevent chronic malnutrition among the most vulnerable populations.
Support for refugeesWFP provides food assistance to vulnerable Syrian refugees residing in Egypt, upon the Government’s request, as part of WFP’s Syria Regional Refugee Response. WFP will shift towards program activities that promote and support employment and livelihood opportunities in the most impacted districts through: vocational and skills trainings, income generating activities and value chain.