Egypt has been deeply affected by the covid-19 crisis

Sent On: 
Wed, 2020-07-01
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"We all want COVID-19 to be over. We all want to get on with our lives. But the hard reality is: this is not even close to being over. We will need even greater stores of resilience, patience, humility and generosity in the months ahead. This is a time for renewing our commitment to empowering communities, suppressing transmission, saving lives, accelerating research and political leadership," Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general WHO (, June 30, 2020)


The covid-19 crisis has not only resulted in deaths, broken families and a shortage of intensive care beds but has also resulted in the loss of income of millions of Egyptians with increasing high prices of necessities which is bound to increase poverty and have social consequences. In our newsletter 28/2019 we reported that the CAPMAS, the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics, showed that the percentage of Egyptians that is living under the poverty line increased from 27.8% in 2015 to 32.5% in the last survey. This figure is expected to increase.


The World Health Organization (WHO) reported 10,321,689 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 507,435 deaths worldwide. Of these there are 68,311 confirmed cases in Egypt with 2,953 deaths. On June 15 the number of daily deaths suddenly surged from 62 to 91 deaths. From this moment the number of deaths per day slightly decreased to 81 on June 30. This surge is not explained in the WHO data.


The Ministry of Health confirms that some underestimation may have in fact taken place since their data were obtained from hospitals but not all infected people went to a hospital. Through church members working in various social projects we know that people have died because they could not find fast enough a bed on the intensive care of a hospital. These were not only elderly people but included people in the midst of their lives and thus robbing families from their breadwinner or mother or both.


The figures for Egypt are moderate if one compares this to its total population of 102 million inhabitants (UN data). This is related to immediate measure taken by Egyptian authorities after the first reported case in Egypt on February 14. COVID-19 arrived in Egypt through a tourist. The Minister of Health flew with Egyptian health officials to China to be informed about how to deal with this pandemic. The minister of aviation closed the airports and suspended all air travel on March 19. Authorities put a curfew in place and prohibited communal prayers in mosques and churches, an unprecedented move in a country where the overwhelming majority is very religious. The economic effects of the measures on the population have been very substantial. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) declared that the world entered a recession that is expected to be worse than the one in 2008–2009. It is also expected that the precautions taken will in particular hit the poorest section of the population since these are the people mostly living in overpopulated areas and their health is, due to poverty, poorest.


A recent WHO report states that the sectors most hit include tourism and hospitality, aviation, oil and gas, automotive, consumer products, consumer electronics and semiconductor industries. Women are disproportionately affected by the crisis, partly because of their share in the health workforce and partly because lockdown measures have made it more difficult to seek support in case of gender-based violence. Food insecurity is increasing for the most vulnerable groups in society, including refugees and domestic workers who are often the first victims when jobs are lost. Egypt is in the process of implementing social protection, social assistance, social insurance and labor market measures to mitigate the socioeconomic impact of the pandemic but this process is difficult and goes much slower than desired.


The Egyptian government needs to make a careful balance between public health concerns and the economic consequences of the lock-down. EgyptAir, for this reason, will be flying again to Cairo but with a reduced number of flights per week. The number of flights are expected to increase after July 15 and again after September 1, 2020.


The office of the Center for intercultural Dialogue and Translation (CIDT) is still closed, staff members mostly work from home with sporadic visits to the office. Internships have become much harder but continue online. Office costs remain largely the same but income has been lost. We may end this year with a 10.000 Euro deficit and practically no means to cover this. The CAWU Learning Center continued but with mixed results. Some students have been able to work from home while for others this was due to circumstances at home not feasible. We want to continue in the next school year but lack the needed funding for this. The Dutch Embassy in Cairo, with whom was have been contact for funding since March 2019, is facing a stop on any new commitments. The project of CAWU with the Anglican Diocese of Egypt in training refugee leaders in Egypt has continued online and yields also good results thanks to the energetic leadership of project leader Comfort Dickson and the enthusiasm of the concerned leaders. Our summer school of June 22-July 2 had to be changed into a summer webinar on June 22-24. We have had close to 60 people who showed interest but 25 who actually participated, 17 Egyptians, 1 Tunisian, 3 Kenyans and 4 European students which provided for a good mix. This is, of course, not uncommon with webinars. The webinar resulted in six applications for online internships.


The future of several parts of our work is uncertain. Please support our work in Egypt through a donation to the Arab-West Foundation. To do so click here. If you want you can specify what aspect of our work you prefer to support. The Arab-West Foundation is run by volunteers and has no overhead costs. Dutch donors need to know that the Arab-West Foundation has the ANBI status which makes donation tax deductible in the Netherlands.



July 1, 2020


Cornelis Hulsman, Editor-in-Chief