Kemet celebrates UN day

22 October 2020

Richard Dictus, the UN resident in Egypt, said that Cairo presented an ideal example in 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 has been behind the success achieved in mitigating the impact of the virus on several levels, he added.

The UN official made his statement as part of a joint meet organized by “Kemet Boutros Ghali Foundation (KBBG)” and the UN regional office, commemorating the 75th anniversary of the world organization. The meeting was also attended by KBBG executive president Ambassador Moushira Khattab, Dr. Hala Al Saeed, Minister of Planning and Economic Development, Maya Morsi, Head of the National Council for Motherhood and Childhood, Dr. Ahmed Manahry, WHO representative, Mona Amen, representing the Ministry of Social Solidarity, and Ambassador Dr. Moushira Khattab, Executive President of KBBG Foundation. 

Despite the fact that the government of Egypt, like many, had to borrow to confront the challenges posed by the new pandemic, it has been able to establish a social network that covered the needs of most of its citizens. On the international level, Dictus said, the GDP of most governments shrank because of governments worldwide closed down the economic activities to stop the virus which practically meant that the states are hardly able to collect taxes to provide for the education and health services. Egypt was not an exception, he added, because 75% of the country’s workers who set at the bottom of the employment’s ladder have lost almost 25% of their income during the lockdown imposed by the government. This, in addition to three million people of temporary workers who were pushed to the poverty line,” Dictus said. 

However, Egypt managed to protect its GDP and pursue some of its grand projects meantime offer its services to most of its citizens… “the point is that if Cairo has more resources it would have offered more but the government made the best out of what it has to accommodate as many and offer better services as possible,” Dictus pointed out. The UN official described the measures taken by the Egyptian government as being very much like the Chinese who imposed strict measures to combat the virus and thus the recovery of the first wave came at minimal loss.

Comparing the measures taken by Egypt to that imposed by the European countries, as Ambassador Mushira requested, Dictus said that Egypt took rapid and quick measures than most European states. Cairo closed down mosques, churches, touristic sites thus taking a pre-emptive stance built upon a carefully designed study of the expected risks, he added. The rapidly taken measures in Egypt has given the government ample opportunity to keep a large part of the economy open unlike a good number of the European countries which was late in its response and had to close down all economic activities. 

However, Dictus warned that Cairo should not depend on the success achieved while 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. The health system which fell under the huge pressure of the first wave should be well- prepared and medical supplies should be put in place, he said.

Speaking of Cairo as presenting an ideal example confronting the pandemic, Dr. Maya Morsi, Head of the National Council of Motherhood and Childhood, NCMC, said that the UN Development Program (UNDP) has set 38 government measures concerning women’s protection and the services offered during the pandemic. Out of the 38 procedures, Egypt managed to achieve 21which placed the country at the top of the UNDP list.   

According to Dr. Maya, the council has been able to ensure that women are well- protected and got ample assistance during the lockdown imposed because of the pandemic. Three- months of paid leave was sanctioned by the government for women to work from home as a mean to take good care of their children meantime pursue their career. Several packages of social and psychological support were put in place to help women during the lockdown and the imposed social- distancing. The government, as Dr. Maya said, ensured that 100 thousand families are included in “Takaful and Karam” system; a program that usually offer financial support to poor families. Money transfer was also used through the NCMC network to reach out for women in remote areas who have also got three- months supplies of medical and contraceptive bills.   

However, the lockdown and social distancing brought about the same symptoms of violence against women. Dr. Maya said that violence against women increased by 11% out of this percentage 7% were attacked for the first time. 

Despite the serious health hazards associated with COVID- 19, as Ambassador Khattab said, the negative economic impact of the policies adopted to confront the pandemic were equally serious. Dr. Hala Al Saeed, Minister of Planning and Economic Development, said that the crisis committee conducted a working- paper executed by the government during the three- months lockdown. Saeed said 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 achieve almost 5% growth rate which helped the economy survive the downturn of the lockdown. Several economic sectors came to a complete standstill and thus the government decided that all sovereign loans will be postponed for three months, Saeed added.

Health services were given priority, meantime the government kept as much as possible parts of the economy running especially those concerned with agriculture, IT services and medical supply projects. Saeed pointed out that the government had adopted an institutionalized system to follow up the developments throughout the country and be able to fill the gap of basic services needed, giving priority to women and youths. 

The world, which witnessed the infection of more than 40 million people and the loss of lives of more than a million individual, should learn to work hand in hand and coordinate their efforts till the end of the second wave, said Dr. Ahmed Manahry, WHO representative said. According to him, the whole world had been through one of the most serious stages of its development… “The world health systems came under huge pressures and global economies were put to a standstill as people were lockdown,” he added. Efforts exerted by teams of health services should be hailed and in poor countries the systems should be supported to overcome the pandemic era.

Mona Ameen, representing the Ministry of Social Solidarity, said that the ministry assisted a good number of women owners of small and very- small enterprises to pay their loans, in addition to paying the installments for 2000 owners, as well as offering aid to 1.7 million families. The ministry offered the needed support to the old- aged and child centers affiliated to it. Food stamps were also distributed as an alternative to help families feed school children who lost their share of food because of schools being closed down.


Arabic version