This content is not available in your region

Egypt's 40 million poor worse since revolution

Egypt's 40 million poor worse since revolution
Text size Aa Aa

The shanty towns of Cairo are showing little interest in a presidential election scheduled to take place next month. Yet activists insist the new leader will have to take an interest in poverty.

Three years ago, among the main causes for the Arab Spring uprising here were demands for social justice.

Since then, conditions have got worse. The latest UN and national report in the matter says nearly half of all Egyptians live below the poverty line. That is defined as living on less than two euros per day.

Then there are public services. For the slum of Duwaiqa there are none — no sewage system, for example. Children play where they can, which often means in open waste water.

Abu Hussain and his five children live in a single, brick-walled room like a crypt. He told us: “I do not have a job or anything. We have no oil or even bread to eat.”

The lack of basic plumbing and piped-in water is high on the list of wants; the improvised electricity supply is sporadic.

A struggling mother of Duwaiqa said: “As you can see, we’re very tight for space. I get nothing from the government. I [and my children] live in one room, with sewage smells through the window.”

According to the Montreal-based independent Centre for Research on Globalisation last month, the field marshal expected to be confirmed as president, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, at the head of the interim military government, has promised an austerity programme that will last for decades: “Possibly one or two generations will [have to suffer],” the Centre reported him saying.

A very agitated, angry Duwaiqa resident said: “The people here are very tired. There is a revolution coming, the revolution of the hungry people. We want to feel there really is a State!”

Communities of tens of thousands scrape by through scavenging for rubbish to recycle.

Rising food prices and inflation are more many can manage.

Our Cairo correspondent Mohammed Shaikhibrahim, highlighting that social conflicts fuelled the core of the explosion that ended the old regime, said: “Successive governments have ignored the suffering of Egypt’s poor, and their calls for clean water and bread.”

He noted these calls are growing more volatile than ever.