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Egypt: Helping combat growing poverty

January 25 2012 - With Egypt asking the IMF for an emergency loan to shore up the country’s economic future, Christian Aid partners are supporting vulnerable communities faced with growing poverty.

Following the fall of President Mubarak foreign investment has declined, tourism has dropped and youth unemployment rates have risen from 20 per cent to 30 per cent .

As a result, there has been a dramatic rise in poverty with an estimated 40 per cent now living under $2 a day. 

Innovative cash for work schemes, run by Christian Aid partners are reaching communities that are most in need, arranging paid employment on projects such as tree planting, building pit latrines and cleaning water reservoirs.

‘Communities that have been involved in the cash for work schemes have felt empowered and hopeful, it helps people to take pride in their community and inspire others.’ said Phoebe Aranki-Stoves, Christian Aids Secure Livelihoods Programme Manager.

Many Egyptian communities have suffered generations of labour migration and have seen skilled and unskilled workers move to towns where work can be found more easily.

Following the uprising in neighbouring Libya, 100,000 Egyptian migrant workers have now returned home with no way of supporting their families. The poorest communities are the worst affected, with almost all men unemployed.

Christian Aid partners Coptic Evangelical Organisation for Social Services (CEOSS) and the Coptic Orthodox Church Bless (COC Bless) have responded with inventive yet simple cash-for-work projects. 

‘Without doubt the scars will remain deep. Children have lost parents; young people cannot find work and untrained women are thrust into the workplace for the first time. Against this, our counselling and cash-for work programmes are providing a path through very troubled times.’ added Phoebe Aranki-Stoves.

In the economic turmoil, trade unions are asserting their independence in protecting workers rights.  Under Mubarak, they were under  state control. Christian Aid partner Wadi El Nil launched the first independent trade union within the quarry sector, and have already successfully fought moves by their employers to cut wages and extend hours.
‘Unemployment has always been a major issue in Egypt, and is becoming increasingly critical,’ said Oliver Pearce, Christian Aid’s Middle East Policy Officer.

‘Christian Aid has worked with local organisations for some time to improve workers’ rights and was making progress before the uprisings. Now they are really well placed to make a real difference to workers’ rights,’ he added. 

‘Poverty and insecurity remain high; overcoming them can be a long process. It is vital that the emerging processes respect and protect human rights, and that people are able to hold decision-makers and the powerful to account.’

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If you would like further information or to arrange an interview please contact Jo Rogers on 020 7523 2460 or jrogers@christian-aid.org. 24 hour press duty phone – 07590 710 942 

Notes to Editors:

1. Christian Aid works in some of the world's poorest communities in nearly 50 countries. We act where the need is greatest, regardless of religion, helping people build the lives they deserve.

2. Christian Aid has a vision, an end to global poverty, and we believe that vision can become a reality. Our report, Poverty Over, explains what we believe needs to be done – and can be done – to end poverty.  Details at http://www.christianaid.org.uk/Images/poverty-over-report.pdf

3. Christian Aid is a member of the ACT Alliance, a global coalition of 100 churches and church-related organisations that work together inhumanitarian assistance and development.  Further details at http://www.actalliance.org

4. Follow Christian Aid's newswire on Twitter: http://twitter.com/caid_newswire

5. For more information about the work of Christian Aid visit www.christianaid.org.uk