A joint study spearheaded by the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP), the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS), and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) recently concluded that 17 percent of Egyptians are considered food insecure, or about 13.7 million people. This is an increase from the 14 percent of food insecure citizens reported in 2009.
The report cites two primary factors for worsening conditions: higher poverty rates and a series of continual crises since 2005. While rural areas have historically experienced higher rates of poverty, urban centers, such as Cairo, witnessed a greater absolute increase by 40 percent, largely threatening food security. Lowered incomes combined with rising food prices make it difficult for households to diversity their food options. Consequently, malnutrition rates have skyrocketed. Currently, stunting in children ages 6 to 59 months is 31 percent, up from 23 percent in 2005. Along with the presence of anemia and obesity, officials claim Egypt is beginning to experience the “triple burden of malnutrition” where the inaccessibility of healthy food options is contributing to individuals consuming too many empty calories. If these trends persist, analysts fear these aggravated conditions could upset political stability, further continuing the cycle of food insecurity.
Several policy changes give hope to Egypt for the future by creating more effective social safety nets in times of crisis. Diversifying rural employment, increasing agribusiness options, and distributing cash and voucher transfers with current food subsidies are some recommendations from the report to mitigate food insecurity.