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Despite progress, millions of children still live in poverty in Egypt, UNICEF study says

UNICEF Regional Director Sigrid Kaag launches Child Poverty Study and meets First Lady during Egypt mission

AMMAN, 18 February 2010 – A study looking at the impact of poverty on children in Egypt reveals that while significant progress has been made, vulnerable children continue to face serious deprivations.

“Nearly half of Egypt’s under 18 year-olds live on less than US$2 a day,” Sigrid Kaag, UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, said at the launch of the study in Cairo. “It is important to look at how poverty is affecting their lives and how we can address it, because a child who lives in poverty rarely gets a second chance at an education or a healthy start in life.”

The study - Child Poverty and Disparities in Egypt: Building the social infrastructure for Egypt’s future - is the first such study in the country that looks at both childhood and poverty at the same time. It highlights Egypt’s gains for children, particularly on the legislative front, but notes that millions continue to live in poverty and face the risk of passing on this deprivation to their own children.

Some of its main findings include:

  • More than 7 million children are deprived of one or more of their rights, which include the right to nutrition, water and sanitation facilities, access to basic health care services, shelter, education, participation and protection
  • Around 5 million children are deprived of appropriate housing conditions
  • Some 1.5 million children under the age of 5 suffer from health and food deprivations.
  • Although poverty does not differentiate by sex, girls, especially in rural areas, are the least likely to attend school or complete their education.

The study calls for increased investment in children to maintain the pace of Egypt’s continued progress and development. Children and their families should be made aware of child rights and of laws protecting these rights, and policies intended to address poverty among children should target children directly.

“If we are to break the cycle of poverty, it is key that children are at the heart of development policies,” Kaag said.

The study was commissioned by UNICEF and conducted by the Center for Economic and Financial Research Studies of the Cairo University. Its work was guided by a steering committee co-chaired by Moushira Khattab, Minister of State for Family and Population, and UNICEF.

During her mission, 15-17 February, Kaag also met with the First Lady of Egypt, Madame Suzanne Mubarak and discussed the “100 schools project” and its role in creating child-friendly schools, the challenges faced by special education initiatives for children with disabilities. Discussions also focused on UNICEF’s work in the country and region as a whole and how more collaboration could further the cause of all children. After this meeting, Kaag expressed her admiration for the First Lady’s transformational vision of education. 

Kaag also met with the ministers of Family and Population, Education, Social Solidarity, and Health as well as the Chairman of the Cabinet’s Information Decision Support Center.

Note to the editor:
The Egypt Child Poverty study is part of a UNICEF global initiative conducted between 2007 and 2009 to look at the impact of poverty on children in 46 countries. The study focuses on the poverty and disadvantages faced by families with children by looking at gaps and opportunities in national poverty reduction strategies, including the demographic and economic context, employment, public and private social expenditures, fiscal space and foreign aid. In the Middle East and North Africa region, three other countries have carried out similar studies: Djibouti, Morocco and Yemen.
For more information, visit: https://www.unicef.org/socialpolicy/index_45357.html.   

UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

For more information, please contact:
Abdel-Rahman Ghandour, UNICEF Regional Office for the Middle East and North Africa,
Tel +962-79-700-4567,

Najwa Mekki, UNICEF Regional Office for the Middle East and North Africa,
Tel +962-79-573-2745,




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