- Title: EGYPT: Thousands turn out in Cairo for U.N. anti-poverty campaign
- Date: 19th October 2007
- Summary: WOMAN PUMPING WATER FROM WELL
- Embargoed: 3rd November 2007 12:00
- Location: Egypt
- Country: Egypt
- Topics: Social Services / Welfare
- Reuters ID: LVAB9169EQMS187MPPMH1C9V69WV
- Story Text: Thousands of Egyptians take part in the U.N.'s anti-poverty "Stand Up Speak Out" campaign which aims to remind world leaders of their countries commitment to U.N. Millennium Development Goals for reducing poverty.
Egypt was one of over a hundred countries to participate in a U.N.
anti-poverty campaign on Wednesday (October 17) amid signs that poverty is increasing despite high rates of economic growth in the Arab world's most populous country.
Celebrities and dignitaries gathered on the banks of the Nile on Wednesday as part of the UN's "Stand Up and Speak Out Against Poverty" campaign and to support the UN's millennium development goals - one of which is the eradication of poverty.
Eight feluccas with sails representing the millennium development goals, docked at the Andalus gardens in the city's upper class Zamalek neighbourhood, to raise awareness about the Egyptian governments' commitments in areas like poverty reduction, gender equality and ensuring environmental sustainability.
The U.N. is holding similar events around the world, in which students, activists and community groups are holding 'stand ins' to highlight the issue of global poverty. At a similar event last year, the organisers said that 23.5 million people participated, gaining the event entry into the Guinness Book of World Records.
Maher Nasser, the Director of the U.N. Information Centre in Egypt, said he hoped the numbers would increase this year.
"Launching the Sailing the Nile for Development in 2007 is accompanied by an international campaign, that of standing against poverty, and to realize the millennium development goals. That goal is also part of the international campaign in which 23.5 million human beings stood last year. We hope the number will double this year," he said.
According to U.N. figures, 40 percent of the Egyptian population lives in poverty, and the Egyptian government categorises eighty percent of Egyptians as low-income.
And despite recent successes in attracting foreign investment and boosting exports, the problem is worsening.
At Wednesay's event, a U.N. spokesman said that between the year the 2000 and 2005, the prevalence of absolute poverty increased to 19.6 percent of the Egyptian population from 16.7 percent at the beginning of the decade.
Egyptian actress Yousra, a U.N. Goodwill ambassador, said that the day's event needed to be part of a sustained effort.
"To the contrary, poverty is increasing. Death is increasing, illness is increasing, disease is increasing, everything is increasing. That's why I am saying that we need the whole world to stand with us, not just for five minutes and then to walk away, we need the world to stand up and take a real stand against poverty," she said.
The eight feluccas representing the goals made at the Millennium U.N.
summit in the year 2,000 were launched last year, and sailed up the Nile from Aswan to Cairo, stopping at eight cities along the each representing one of the goals.
The U.N. says that poverty is disproportionately high in southern Egypt and in the countryside, with two thirds of the poorest people living in the south.
Egyptian actor Mahmoud Yassin, who also took part yesterday, said the campaign was about providing the bare minimum for the least privileged.
"I am happy to participate in these great celebrations. This large crowd against poverty and trying to aid and help and establish a dignified life for poor people," he said.
Egypt's U.N. Information Centre Director Nasser highlighted the worsening situation for the poorest in Egypt.
"The numbers of poor, or those who live under the poverty line in Egypt has increased since last year - since the year 2,000 until this year, from 16 to 19 percent. That means one in every five Egyptians is suffering from poverty."
During the five year period in which those below the poverty line increased, the Egyptian economy showed cumulative real growth of about 21 percent and the rate of growth has since accelerated, to 7.1 percent in the financial year 2006/7, which ended in June.
Foreign direct investment in Egypt has also increased dramatically in the last two years and the World Bank said this month that Egypt was one of the countries which had made most progress in improving the climate for business.
Nevertheless and U.N. spokesman said Egypt was among several countries where poverty spread in the midst of economic growth. The U.N. said in a statement that 20.2 percent of Egyptians are living on less than $1 a day.
The U.N. has also said that Egypt's goal is to cut the proportion of people living on under $1 a day to 12.1 percent by 2015.
While poverty is more acute in southern Egypt, many Egyptians in the capital, Cairo, live in overcrowded red-brick shantytowns called "Ashawiyaat", that have minimal if any basic services.
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