Over the past three decades, Egypt’s economic and social indicators have improved significantly, and its Human Development Index ranking increased by almost 50 per cent, moving it from the low to medium development group (120 out of 177 countries), according to a World Bank report prepared in cooperation with UNICEF.
However, economic growth has not yet translated into sustainable improvement of Egyptians’ well-being, and poverty persists.
The Government has adopted several important measures aimed at accelerating economic growth, creating job opportunities and better focusing of social safety nets, particularly subsidy schemes.
In relation to children specifically, The Presidential Declaration of the Second Decade for the Protection and Welfare of the Egyptian Child (2000-2010) placed children at the forefront of the development agenda. This commitment contributed, inter alia, to a significant reduction of under-five mortality and a high level of primary education attainment.
Despite this progress sub-national disparities persist, particularly in Upper Egypt, where 25 million people (37 per cent of the population) reside. Between 1995 and 2000, poverty declined by 14 per cent at the national level but in rural Upper Egypt it actually increased by 17 per cent. More recently, by 2004, poverty increased up to 20% nationwide, and in rural Upper Egypt, the poverty rate is as high as 41%.
The under-five mortality rate (U5MR) halved over the last decade, to 36 per 1,000 live births. Improved access to medical care during pregnancy and childbirth contributed to improving child survival. If these trends continue, Egypt will achieve the Millennium Development Goal of reducing U5MR by two thirds during the period 1990-2015 at national level. However, the situation in rural Upper Egypt remains a concern.
The reduction of maternal mortality ratio to 84 per 100,000 live births in 2000 down from 174 per thousand live births in the early 90s is a tremendous achievement. Recent studies indicate further improvement in the maternal mortality ratio since 2000 (68 per 100,000 live births in 2003). This remarkable progress is due primarily to improvements registered in the metropolitan areas (Urban governorates) and Upper Egypt. It is indicative that the goal of reducing maternal mortality by three quarters within 25 years can be achieved by 2015.