Kemet Celebrates UN Day
Richard Dictus, UN resident coordinator in Egypt, praised Cairo for displaying an ideal example of mitigating the impact of the pandemic, especially on the health and economic levels. The balanced policies taken by the Egyptian government to stop the spread of COVID-19 have been behind the success achieved in mitigating the impact of the virus on several levels.
The UN representative made his statement as part of a joint meeting organized by the Kemet Boutros Ghali Foundation (KBG) and the UN regional office, commemorating the 75th anniversary of the world organization.
On the international level, Dictus stated, most governments' GDP shrank because governments worldwide closed down their economic activities to stop the virus, which practically meant that the states could hardly collect taxes to provide education and health services. Egypt was not an exception, he added, because 75% of the country's workers at the bottom of the employment ladder lost almost 25% of their income during the lockdown imposed by the government, in addition to three million people of temporary workers being pushed to the poverty line.
However, Egypt managed to protect its GDP and pursue some of its grand projects while providing services to most of its citizens. The UN official described the measures the Egyptian government took as being very much like the Chinese, who imposed strict measures to combat the virus and recovered from the first wave with minimal loss.
Dictus added that Egypt took more immediate steps than most European states. The rapidly taken measures in Egypt gave the government ample opportunity to keep a large part of the economy open, unlike a good number of the European countries which were late in their response and had to close down all economic activities.
However, Dictus warned that Cairo should not rely on the success of combating the first wave of the pandemic. The country should consider resuming its campaign to keep the public aware of the advent of a second wave. He said that the health system, which fell under the massive pressure of the first wave, should be well-prepared, and medical supplies should be put in place.
Dr. Maya Morsi, Head of the National Council of Motherhood and Childhood, declared that the UN Development Program (UNDP) had set 38 government measures concerning women's protection and the services offered during the pandemic. Of the 38 procedures, Egypt managed to achieve 21, which placed the country at the top of the UNDP list.
According to Dr. Morsi, the council has ensured that women are well-protected and receive generous assistance during the lockdown. The government sanctioned three months of paid leave for women to work from home and take good care of their children while pursuing their careers. Several packages of social and psychological support were put in place to help women during the lockdown and the imposed social- distancing. The government included 100 thousand families in the "Takaful and Karam" system, a program that usually offers financial support to low-income families. The NCMC network also used money transfers to reach out to women in remote areas who were granted three months of medical and contraceptive bills.
According to Dr. Hala Al Saeed, Minister of Planning and Economic Development, the government was able to extend a helping hand to many in this country, especially irregular workers, because of the previously achieved economic development. Egypt managed during the first three quarters of 2019 to reach an almost 5% growth rate, which helped the economy survive the downturn of the lockdown. Dr. Saeed added that several economic sectors came to a complete standstill, and thus the government decided that all sovereign loans would be postponed for three months.
Health services were given priority; meanwhile, the government kept as many sectors of the economy as possible running, especially agriculture, IT services, and medical supply projects. Dr. Saeed pointed out that the government had adopted a standardized system to follow up on the developments throughout the country and fill the gap in essential services needed, prioritizing women and young people.
To Dr. Ahmed Manahry, WHO representative, the whole world s been through one of its most serious development stages. He praised the efforts exerted by health workers and urged emerging countries to prioritize investing in their healthcare systems to overcome the pandemic era.
Mona Ameen, representing the Ministry of Social Solidarity, stated that the ministry assisted a good number of women owners of small enterprises to pay their loans, in addition to paying the installments for 2000 owners and offering aid to 1.7 million families. The ministry provided support to the elderly and child centers affiliated with it. Food stamps were also distributed as an alternative to help families feed their young children after schools closed down.