Photograph — EU Neighbours

With over 2.3 million people assisted so far, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and the European Union (EU) this week marked their five-year-long partnership in Egypt.

WFP in 2014 rolled out a $67.7 million project funded by the EU to provide assistance in 16 of the most vulnerable governorates in Egypt, in collaboration with the government. 

The EU-funded program – Enhancing Access of Children to Education and Fighting Child Labour – helped address root causes of child labour by improving household food security, supporting sustainable livelihoods for mothers and access to education for children.

“Education is a key cornerstone to promote human empowerment and to prepare youth and especially young girls to become an active actor of the knowledge-based society,” EU Ambassador to Egypt, Ivan Surkoš said.

Apart from the children, beneficiaries of the project include the entire family. While children received a daily snack at school, their families received take-home food rations on a monthly basis in return for the children’s regular attendance. The idea is to compensate for the wage they would earn if sent out to work instead of going to school. 

Furthermore, WFP provided support for families, particularly mothers, to start income-generating activities. Mothers who benefited from the project through skills training and micro-loans now own small businesses, lifting their families out of poverty. 

Many children in Egypt suffer various forms of violence, exploitation, human trafficking, and inadequate family care. Particularly, child labour constitutes a major threat to the young generation. At the onset of the WFP-EU programme in 2014, the Egypt Demographic and Health Survey (EDHS) found that seven percent of children aged 5-17 years old (around 1.6 million children) are involved in child labour and 5.6 percent of these children work under hazardous conditions.

Moreover, the quality of education in Egypt remains a major challenge preventing children from developing to their full potential and contributing to society in the long term. While the country stands as one of those, where 90 percent of the global burden of malnutrition falls, with two-thirds of child mortality attributable to malnutrition.

These are the issues the EU-financed project has been addressing by supporting enhanced nutrition, food security and quality education for helpless children, as well as combating child labour. The objectives are also in line with national priorities and initiatives to reach out to vulnerable groups in Upper Egypt’s rural areas.

Meanwhile, WFP’s Representative and Country Director in Egypt, Menghestab Haile, expressed his gratitude for the support of the Government and the EU. The UN official stated that “Without generous contributions from donors like the EU, currently our largest donor in Egypt, much of this would not be possible.”

WFP has been in Egypt since 1968, working with the government to respond to humanitarian needs and tackle the underlying causes of food insecurity and malnutrition in the country. The objective is to explore innovative and sustainable ways to assist the government in achieving Zero Hunger by 2030.

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