The need for pro-poor economic growth and better targeting of assistance programs in Upper Egypt is well documented. Upper Egypt is inhabited by 40% of the national population, and by 66% of Egypt’s extreme poor, making it the most vulnerable region in the country. With a poverty incidence of 41.2%, Upper Egypt is almost doubling the national average of 21.6%. Poverty affects 84% of village residents nationwide, and 65% of those who work in agriculture.
In order to address the livelihood concerns of the poor, the Government of Egypt (GOE) initiated in 2007 the “1000 Poorest Villages Initiative”. These villages are located in 9 governorates, 7 of which are in Upper Egypt. Recommendations included increasing agricultural productivity, improving access and quality of infrastructure, upgrading social and community services, and developing the skills of the local labor force, especially the young.
After the January 25th revolution, diminishing revenues from tourism and the service sector, together with reduced foreign direct investments, rising inflation and political uncertainty have resulted in a contraction of the economy and an erosion of the progress towards achieving most of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The sudden deceleration of the economy is having severe impacts on human security of communities in rural Upper Egypt in particular, causing its more vulnerable groups (youth, women, and children) to slide deeper into poverty and exclusion. Decreasing incomes at the household level have repercussions on food and health security (hunger, unsafe food, malnutrition, decreased access to basic health care) as well as on personal and community security (crime, domestic violence and child labor). Additional factors have compounded to jeopardize human security in Upper Egypt: (i) widespread disappointment amongst vulnerable groups after expectations for rapid change had been created upon the January 25 revolution; (ii) uncertainty regarding the future political situation; and (iii) increased mistrust towards state security forces. Unless immediate measures are taken to strengthen human security, and to foster inclusive policies, the well-being of many communities in Upper Egypt will be severely compromised, placing at risk the whole country.