In Focus – Daily News Egypt Egypt’s Only Daily Independent Newspaper In English Fri, 10 Jul 2020 22:06:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Smokers not more susceptible to COVID-19 infection: Researchers Tue, 30 Jun 2020 08:30:34 +0000 Giving smokers alternative nicotine delivery means they might prefer these products over cigarettes, and produce better outcomes, says Polosa

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It’s not news that smoking is bad for human health and the leading risk factor for many heart problems and cancers. It also reduces immunity, and makes people more likely to respiratory infections.

But researchers have found recently that smokers might not be more susceptible to infection or illness caused by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). However, according to Riccardo Polosa, Professor of Internal Medicine at Italy’s University of Catania and a world-renowned researcher into tobacco harm reduction, there is still an area of active research and the jury remains out on the claims.

Polosa sat down with Daily News Egypt to talk further on this critical issue.

Do you think that smokers are most vulnerable to COVID-19?

As with any viral infection, the symptoms and severity of symptoms generally depend on two key factors: the viral load and the immuno-competence of the host. For SARS-CoV-2, about 80% of the infected population seems to deal adequately with the viral infection developing only asymptomatic forms or slight symptomatic disease.

However, there are 20% of individuals that will go on to develop a severely symptomatic form of the disease, either because they have been exposed to a highly elevated viral load, as in hospital staff, or due to depressed immunologic defences, as in elderly people with comorbidities.

Smokers do not seem to be more susceptible to infection or disease caused by the coronavirus, and, quite surprisingly, the scientific evidence suggests the opposite, that smoking may be protective against COVID-19. This is still an area of active research and the Jury is still out.

Are smokers likely to have more severe symptoms? Are those using vaping products or ecigarette less likely to be affected?

Smokers are less likely to get infected with SARS-CoV-2, or to end up in hospital with the coronavirus. No data is available for e-cigarette users, but, given that e-cigarettes are much less toxic than tobacco cigarettes, a consequential educated guess is that vaping is highly unlikely to be a risk factor for infection and/or disease.

Do smokers pass infection faster than non-smokers?

Besides the notion that smokers are less susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection, currently there is no data to argue about the propagation speed of the virus.

In your opinion, what are the alternatives to smoking cigarettes?

The first alternative to smoking is to not smoke! But stopping smoking is not easy, and many smokers like cigarettes. For smokers who cannot or do not want to quit, there is an alternative, which is switching to much less harmful, combustion-free products such as e-cigarettes or heated tobacco products. Toxicological data of combustion-free nicotine delivery products are on average 90% to 95% less harmful than combustion cigarettes. Moreover, rapid innovation in vaping product design is likely to further reduce their residual toxicological risk. Promoting wider access to much less harmful combustion-free nicotine delivery products, such as tobacco cigarettes substitutes, may contribute to accelerating the decline of the prevalence of smoking.

Is it correct that vaping is less harmful than cigarettes?

There is nothing to be suspicious about! Vaping products are less harmful than tobacco cigarettes. Public Health England recognises the reduced harm caused by e-cigarettes as an alternative to combustible cigarettes, with e-cigarettes being up to 95% less harmful. E-cigarette in England can be sold inside hospitals, and family doctors can advise their patients to quit smoking by switching to e-cigarettes.

Do you think that smoking rates will decline due to harder circumstances worldwide?

A recent survey of 1,825 participants by the Center of Excellence for the Acceleration of Harm Reduction (CoEHAR) in Catania, showed a slight decrease in cigarette consumption during the COVID-19 lockdown. But, on the other hand, the same respondents stated that they stockpiled cigarettes and e-liquids, a behaviour similar to that of citizens who stocked up foodstuffs during the lockdown. In spite of the media campaign promoting smoking abstinence, there has been no sign of a decline in smoking rates during COVID-19.

Do you think that that e-cigarette helps smokers to quit?

Yes. Population surveys, randomised controlled trials and observational studies have shown that e-cigarettes can be used to help smokers quit. Efficacy is variable depending on the specific product-user interaction.

What bad habits smokers should quit?

Smokers must stop smoking. If they cannot, they should at least try switching to combustion-free nicotine delivery products. By quitting or switching, they will massively reduce the chances of exposing themselves and bystanders to toxic substances in tobacco smoke.

Rampant rumours suggest a link between COVID-19 and smoking. Do you think smoking companies have to create less harmful products?

Tobacco cigarettes can kill, so there is no doubt that most efforts should be spent in developing innovative cigarette substitutes that provide the best smoking-like experience but without the harm of the toxic substances of tobacco smoke. These products may not be risk free, but their impact on human health is likely to be substantially less damaging than conventional cigarettes, regardless of any potential effect of smoking on COVID-19.

Based on your studies and expertise, are vaping and e-cigarette less harmful than cigarettes, do they have the same long-term effects?

This is an important question. No data is available for the long term health effects of e-cigarettes, but, given that e-cigarettes are much less toxic than tobacco cigarettes, a consequential educated guess is that vaping is highly unlikely to be a risk factor for significant health effects compared to continuing smoking. New studies are being performed on exclusive vapers who have never smoked in their life. Data will not be available for many years. Therefore, the jury is still out on long-term health effects of e-cigarettes.

There have been demonstrations against e-cigarettes which have caused deaths. Can you estimate the percentage of deaths by e-cigarette compared to cigarette smoking?

Let’s be clear, e-cigarettes do not kill people. Sadly, the media misrepresented the outbreak of acute severe cases of lung injury and deaths in the US in the fall of 2019. For several months, commercial vaping products were blamed for the illnesses and deaths in numerous newspapers, TV, and radio stories.

Although the data was available on the US CDC website, the media failed to report that 82% of cases (of which 66% male) were among users of illegal THC cartridges, not including underage patients who may not have admitted to their illegal activities. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) shut down 44 illegal THR online vape sites with Operation Vapor Lock and subsequently the number of new cases plummeted.

With new cases down to near zero and having identified Vitamin E acetate, a thickening agent in illegal/black market THC liquids consumed with vapourisers, as the culprit of the outbreak, the CDC stopped reporting on this respiratory condition on 25 February 2020.

The media gave little attention to these important developments and to the fact that the outbreak was confined to the US black market supply chain, with no cases of lung illness being reported among users in the European Union or elsewhere in the world. Moreover, no appreciable effort was spent by the media in rectifying the misinformation.

What do you recommend for smokers?

My advice to tobacco smokers is to try to quit, it is never too late to quit smoking! If you cannot or do not wish to give up your cigarettes, please consider trying substitute combustion-free products. Giving smokers an alternative with efficient nicotine delivery means that they might prefer one of these products over cigarettes and in the end this will produce better outcomes.

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Younger employees most affected by pandemic-caused income declines, job losses Tue, 30 Jun 2020 08:00:35 +0000 One in four Egyptians have altered food habits due to ongoing crisis, says CAPMAS

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Few people have been left unaffected by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, with a range of emotional, financial, and health-related impacts among the most widely reported side effects.

For some families, the pandemic has meant making significant changes in everyday routines due to financial hardships. In other families, the uncertainty and inability to interact with anyone outside the immediate family has meant increased anxiety, whether among adults or children, tensions in parental relationships, or general fear.

The Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS) has released the results of a series of surveys that have gathered localised information on the wide-ranging and far-reaching effects of the global pandemic.

The results of the surveys were gathered via phone interviews, and aim to highlight the obstacles Egyptian families face due to the pandemic.

CAPMAS found that the pandemic has led to drastic reductions in work hours, and even to job losses, with this in turn affecting income and general family well-being. It found that a total of 61.9% of employees aged between 15 and 64 were affected by workplace changes off the back of the coronavirus pandemic, with about 26% losing their jobs.

Moreover, the age-range that suffered the most from the job security point of view was the 25-34 age range, with about 67.5% of the surveyed citizens reporting that their jobs were affected.

The most disadvantaged workers were those who had not completed high-school, with their unemployment peak at 66.4% during the economic crisis.

About 73.5% decline in income has been reported since the crisis hit, while almost 25% of respondents said that their income was not affected. Only 1% of surveyed people reported an increase in their income since the start of the crisis.

CAPMAS notes that the older the employee’s age, the lower the economic impact of the pandemic. The agency noted that 87.9% of people aged between 15 and 24 years old saw a decrease in their salaries, while a total of 56.5% of those aged between 55 and 64 reported a salary decrease.

Meanwhile, about 55.7% of citizens noted that their work hours fell precipitously, while about 26% of these citizens had completely lost their jobs.

The crisis has also led to a change in family incomes, on the back of the effects of the precautionary measures on economic activities.

A majority 60.3% reported that the preventive measures adopted to curb the virus’ spread led to their incomes decreasing. A total of 35.5% of respondents reported income declines due to job loss, with 31.5% reporting income declines due to low demand on the product or service they provide.

CAPMAS also conducted a survey to gather information on how people identify the signs and symptoms of the coronavirus. This looked into awareness of the virus, as well as general knowledge, attitudes, and related behaviours among citizens.

The agency found that 99.9% of respondents were aware of the existence of the novel virus, with 95% of participants identifying fever as the main symptom of infection. Over half of participants followed new developments related to the virus using state-run news channels.

The majority of participants, or about 96.3%, could correctly identify symptoms and ways to prevent infection with the coronavirus. A total of 65% of families reported that they would visit the nearest hospital in case they have suspect a case, while 16% of the families believed that they should use the Ministry of Health’s hotline to report any suspected cases.

About two-thirds, or 67.6%, of families were aware of the Ministry of Health’s hotline. Over half, or 52.8%, of respondents were extremely confident that a curfew is the most effective measure to curb the virus’ spread. A total of 42.3% of families believed that closing public areas where large gatherings are most likely to take place is the most effective measure against spread.

CAPMAS also reported that the coronavirus’ rapid spread has altered consumer habits in the short term, although it added that this could potentially have a long-term impact.

In a third survey, the agency assessed the impact of the coronavirus on the consumption habits of Egyptian families. It found that one in every four consumers, or 25%, said the pandemic changed his food consumption habits, driving him to cook, eat, shop, and think about food differently.

The consumption of meat, fish, and chicken has significantly fallen, by as much as 17-25%, while the consumption of non-food products such as clothing, school, and transportation has seen a 27-33% drop. However, an increase in the number of people who reported consuming sugar, rice, oil, and legumes was reported.

The CAPMAS survey also indicated that 70% of the decrease in food consumption was a result of income declines among families, either due to salary cuts or job losses. At the same time, there was a reported 90% decrease in consumption of other products, as the result of the state-imposed precautionary measures.

A higher percentage of people said that their use of detergents and disinfectants had significantly increased since the start of the pandemic, in part due to the greater focus on hygiene and sanitisation.

The survey also looked into the measures taken by Egyptian families in cases where the coronavirus forced them into financial hardship. A total of 40% of respondents said that they borrowed money from their relatives to overcome financial problems.

More than half of the families anticipated that they would see a decrease in incomes in the coming three months, while 46.4% of respondents believed that their incomes will remain the same.

Meanwhile, 45.3% of responding families said their income declines were as a result of the precautionary measures taken to curb the virus spread. One in every three families said they do not have an adequate income to meet their needs, while 66.8% of families said they can meet their needs.

Asked about the measures they have taken to overcome the financial problems, 92.5% of respondents said they bought cheaper food products. About 89.8% of families have also reduced their consumption of meat and chicken, while 19.8% of families have reduced the size of every meal.

Both global and country-specific interventions of varying degrees and impacts have been taken to mitigate the pandemic’s impacts across the food system.

Locally, Egypt has taken several measures to support local industries meant to preserve and re-adjust product supply chains, with solutions harnessing locally-available resources and goods.

Beyond the immediate interventions addressing the current emergency situations, countries may take this opportunity to pursue permanent solutions and promote transformation towards more sustainable food systems.

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Education Ministry promises adjustments after inconveniences in Thanaweyya Amma exams Wed, 24 Jun 2020 08:30:42 +0000 I am not the kind of person who is easily worried, but what I saw on the first day made me totally uncomfortable, says student

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Over 650,000 students across Egypt started their school leaving exams (Thanaweyya Amma) on Sunday, amid heightened precautionary measures to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). However, reports and photographs of overcrowding were circulated on social media, showing large gatherings of parents and students in front of schools.

Minister of Education Tarek Shawky pledged to solve the issues that were seen on the first day of the Thanaweyya Amma exams, by implementing new procedures starting from the second day of exams on Thursday.

According to a press statement on Sunday, Shawky noted that the Ministry of Education had observed violations at a total of 20 schools out of the 2,216 where exams were taking place.

Shawky criticised the students for gathering together, and described their behaviour as lacking commitment to social distancing measures before and after the exam. The minister appealed to parents to set a good example to students.

However, some students told Daily News Egypt that there was a lack of organisation and commitment to precautionary measures at the exam venues from the school managements themselves. Some voiced concerns about the overcrowding in front of schools, with little done by exam officials to discourage this or control the crowds.

Students also agreed that they were forced to wait outside for over an hour before the start of their exam, which commenced later than the announced timing.

Social distancing needed

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a female student said, “The situation during the first day of the exam was not the best. I am not the kind of person who is easily worried, but what I saw during the first day made me totally uncomfortable.”

The student, who is undertaking her exams at the Red Crescent school in Cairo’s Maadi district, also said that she arrived early to the exam as requested. However, she and her colleagues ended up waiting for a long period of time in the school’s playground before they were allowed in to the exam.

“Thank God, the playground was not so crowded, but outside it was very much so, and parents were fighting to enter the school,” the student said.

She added that there were no social distancing precautions in place among students going into the exam classrooms, with no organised lines of students as they entered.

“We were only 14 students in the class, where we had to sanitise our own desks, but not all the teachers were wearing face masks and gloves,” the student said. “The thing that really annoys me is the overcrowding, it really needs some organisation.”

The student did note, however, that the students, who were given face masks and had their temperatures tested as they were going in, entered the schools through sterilisation gates.

Another student at a government school in Beni Suef governorate, who also requested to speak on condition of anonymity, said that he entered the school through sterilisation gates. He added that there were ambulances and police cars outside the school.

However, he noted that the distribution of face masks, gloves, and sanitisation products was uneven, as some students received them and others, including himself, did not.

“There were three schools taking exams at the same venue, including mine, but there was no social distance, and when we were having our temperature tested, we all were standing close to each other in a very small place,” he added.

The student also noted that the inspector was not wearing a face mask, and that in the examination classroom he was seated in, invigilators were not strict with those students who removed their face mask.

There were also many parents standing outside the school, with no organisation of these crowds, he also said.

Ahmed Awad, whose sister is sitting her Thanaweyya Amma exams this year in Kafr El-Sheikh, told Daily News Egypt that the organisation of exams was not ideal.

“My sister, who is a student, waited in the sun for more than hour before the exam, which already made the temperatures of most students high,” Awad said. “There were no ambulances, on hand, and only a dentist to handle any situation if there were an emergency, and he was covering three schools, despite him not being the best candidate for the role.”

He added that they were surprised that the students came out from exam classrooms about two hours later than scheduled, noting that’s why parents gathered outside the school.

The families expected that the ministry will designate waiting areas for them outside schools, Awad said.

Things different at Al-Azhar schools

The situation was rather different at schools affiliated with Al-Azhar, with no complaints filed and students noting that the conditions were fine.

Hassan Mohamed, a student at an Al- Azhar high school, said that there was no crowdedness in front of their exam committees. They underwent temperature tests, and were given face masks and gloves.

“We entered in organised lines to the examination classrooms, with social distancing measures were in place. There were only eight students inside each classroom,” the student said. “We also went through sterilisation gates on the way in.”

Mohamed noted that although there were no families or any large gatherings allowed outside the school, there was also no police presence or ambulance outside too.

Abeer Safwat, an exam invigilator in Fayoum governorate, told Daily News Egypt, “We were given gloves, and sanitizers, and everything was organised by the ministry [of Education], which provided everything. However, face masks were not distributed to all teachers as there were only a limited number of these, but there were face masks given to other schools in the area.”

Despite the short supply of some items, she added, “There was a medical worker visiting the examination classrooms, and an ambulance outside. In our school, we also have an isolation room for any student who is suspected of having the coronavirus.”

Students were also given plastics bags to wear on their feet, she noted, adding that in some schools the Ministry of Education has given face shields to teachers.

No exams to be postponed

Many parents, as well as the Egyptian Medical Syndicate, have called for the Thanaweyya Amma exams to be postponed over concerns about student safety. The calls come amid a surge in coronavirus cases across Egypt over recent weeks. Others called for replacing the exams with an online research project, which has been adopted for other school grades.

Education Minister Tarek Shawky has repeatedly said that major exams, which have already been delayed for two weeks amid precautions, cannot be postponed further. He noted that the authorities are taking all the necessary precautions as students sit their exams.

According to local media, several confirmed or suspected coronavirus cases have been detected among high-school students on the first day of exams. Several students had exams in designated isolation rooms at schools, while others were transferred to isolation hospitals after showing symptoms, including high temperatures.

Students with the virus, or those who have an infected family member, are allowed to postpone their exams to the second round without having any marks deducted. Students concerned about their safety also have the option to postpone their exams to the next academic year.

Egypt suspended school and university classes in mid-March as part of sweeping anti-coronavirus measures. The government introduced a new online research paper system as an alternative to the final exams of most other school grades, to reduce overcrowding and ensure students’ health and safety.

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In uneasy times, Magnum offers affordable options for securing organisations Mon, 22 Jun 2020 12:20:57 +0000 Magnum Security Services provides security personnel to help companies, individuals keep their peace of mind

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Security agencies have become the need of the hour. Global strife has opened up an increasing demand for guaranteed security options that maintain safety and security.

Stepping up to put one’s mind at ease, private security companies offer an affordable option for organisations and individuals looking to protect themselves and their immovable assets.

There are various agencies that offer their services at schools, businesses, banks, and other important places. If you feel the need for someone to look after your assets and ensure the safety of your family or employees, then Magnum Security Services is here to help.

The security agency provides security guards for corporations that not only protect their offices from outside attacks, but also monitor employees working there. It also provides security options for individual clients, whatever their needs might be.

Whether people are at home or in the office, if they do not feel safe then security agencies are there to offer their help.

Magnum Security Services can tailor a programme to fit its customers’ needs and budget, whilst enhancing the level of on-site safety and security. The company recognises the unique requirements of each customer’s property, and can provide them with quality security services.

Mohamed Nadir, Managing Director of Magnum Security Services, said the company was founded in 2019 by former officers from the National Security, Criminal Investigations Department, Police Academy, Corporate Security, and Risk Professionals.

“The company’s chairperson is the former deputy chief of INTERPOL Kamal Rohayem, while the company’s deputy chairperson is Nashaat Gouda, the former director of the security sector in the Egyptian National Security Agency,” Nadir added.

With the company’s founders and executive team each having such high-level experience, the company can bring a wealth of experience and knowledge to the table. It ensures that it works closely with its clients to implement advanced security programmes to protect their most valuable assets.

Security Officers

Security guards protect the assets of an organisation from any potential threats. Magnum carefully recruits security officers who must undergo in-depth screening as part of the employment process. The employees are also prepared for any dangerous situations as they go through intense on-site training to prepare them for any eventuality.

For crisis management, the company has built strong relationships with local authorities to support business and coordinate with the authorities if needed.

The company also uses various advanced techniques for optimum resource management and to provide technical solutions. Surveillance cameras are also installed for this purpose, alongside highly trained security personnel who bring with them a wealth of training to their work.

The security guards work to provide a safe working environment for the employees. In cases of emergencies, such as fires, they can keep large numbers of people calm and maintain movement towards escape routes by undertaking risk assessment.

Duties of Security Officers

Hiring a security guard is not just about protecting the community. It also ensures the safety of all the families in that community. And with that in mind, professionally trained security officer can take the load off clients’ shoulders.

Magnum provides its security guards with a challenging and rewarding environment to help them succeed in their work. Through effective recruitment, comprehensive screening, efficient training and retention practices, the company offers a carefully selected and dependable security staff.

Well-trained security personnel will watch over the communities in which they work, as they are trained to protect and keep an eye on their belongings. The security guards are trained to handle crimes professionally and efficiently, and they act as the first line of defence for an individual.

If an individual is living in a high-risk area, then hiring a security guard is a great idea as they will keep it under surveillance around-the-clock. Each security officer is highly trained to patrol the area and spot any suspicious activities.

The security staff have received training in customer service duties, physical security, fire protection and safety, and basic first aid skills. This comes in addition to other training which is based on the specific client needs, such as building searches, electronic security and monitoring systems, as well as bomb threat and shoplifting prevention.

Magnum aims to secure long-term corporate success, while taking into account its social and environmental responsibility. The company is also committed to preventing pollution and reducing waste.

It also tries to eliminate or reduce any potentially adverse environmental impacts, whilst promoting environmental awareness among its suppliers, contractors and partners.

Roles of Magnum Security Agency

Magnum Security Services provides security personnel that help companies keep their people and properties safe, and individuals keep their peace of mind.

Knowing how important a feeling of security is for businesses and people, the company recruits and trains individuals as qualified security personnel. Each security guard is capable of providing the highest levels of security and safety for people, organisations or businesses.

It ensures strict training and certification standards for its security guards, especially as the company’s role is exceedingly important to its clients. It also assists at events, parties and political crowds. The guards are placed at the entrances, exits and within the crowd to ensure a safe environment.

Magnum Security Services’ core principles are individual accountability and leadership. Its security officers also have a reputation for their professionalism, and ability to be prepared and responsive for everything.

The company ensures the full safety of its clients, and protects their welfare, whether it is of the individual or an organisation for which they are consulted. The duties of the trained and experienced teams vary by employer, but mainly they include retail loss prevention, access control concierge and reception services.

The company also provides services such as emergency procedures and response evacuation, planning fire safety incident, law enforcement, and control room operations. It also provides K9 services and close personal protection services for clients.

Magnum Security K9 security teams consist of professional handlers and highly trained dogs, the latter of whom have been trained to locate explosive devices and alert handlers to anything unusual. The dog teams are experienced in handling security in large areas, and have been trained in a variety of extensive scenarios, allowing high detection rates and increased safety.

Risk and crisis management

Working across different industries and business sectors, Magnum Security Services works with multi-national companies, government and public entities, manufacturers, financial institutions, utility and resource companies, regulators, and contractors.

Magnum Security Services consultants bring considered, technical and practical risk-based analysis and advice to the corporate decision table.

The company provides its services to cover all aspects of a company or individual’s security needs. This includes security risk assessments, business continuity management, disaster recovery management, incident and crisis management.

The world we live in has become volatile, so risk management is a must to overcome any natural disaster or man-made event. Magnum Security Services provides a comprehensive selection of planning, emergency management training, and exercise offerings to better prepare clients for the unexpected.

The company’s experts bring decades of real-world experience that helps its clients, whether individuals or organisations, prepare themselves for every situation.

For more information please visit the official website:


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MIU students launch public awareness campaign for early detection of hearing impairment Sat, 20 Jun 2020 20:30:50 +0000 Campaign tries to help parents detect symptoms and early signs of hearing impairment in their infants

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Students at Misr International University’s (MIU) Department of Mass Communication have launched an awareness campaign highlighting the importance of the early detection of hearing impairment in newborns.

The graduation project, entitled “Saadeh Yesmaaek” (Help him hear you), aims at educating parents on the causes and how to detect the early signs and symptoms of hearing impairment in their infants. Using social media, such as Facebook and Instagram, to reach out to parents, the project aims to raise public awareness of hearing impairment and what to look out for.

The project highlights the habits that affect hearing ability among infants, and the steps that must be immediately followed after the problem is discovered. The students undertook extensive research with specialised paediatricians, speech therapists, audiologists, and otolaryngologists, to gather as much insight as possible.

Specialised doctors asserted that early detection is key to better communication skills, language acquisition, and child development.

The early signs include newborns remaining unaffected or not reacting to loud noises, or not saying single words such as “mama” or “dada” by the one-year mark. Moreover, a good indicator of hearing impairment is if the baby does not wake up when sounds are made nearby.

About 16% of children in Egypt suffer from hearing impairment. On the back of that statistic, the campaign is much needed to reduce the percentage so children get the help they need to better communicate and live more easily.

Hearing impairment occurs when one or more parts of the ear do not develop properly or are under-developed. The degree of hearing impairment can vary widely from one person to another. Some have only partial hearing loss, meaning that the ear can pick up some sounds. Others, however, have complete hearing loss causing profound deafness.

With some types of hearing impairment, the sufferer may have more trouble than normal in hearing when there is background noise. One or both ears may be affected, and the impairment may be worse in one ear than in the other.

The timing of the hearing loss can vary too. Congenital hearing loss is present at birth, whereas acquired hearing loss happens later in life, during childhood, the teen years, or in adulthood. Acquired hearing loss can either be sudden or progressive in nature.

In children, hearing problems can affect their ability to learn and acquire language, while in adults it can create difficulties with social interaction and at work.

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Graduation project tackles reducing Egypt’s divorce rates Wed, 10 Jun 2020 11:00:46 +0000 Young students set up ‘Abl El Bedaya’ providing pre-marital counselling to young couples looking to get married

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A group of students at the British University in Egypt (BUE) has created a campaign called “Abl El Bedaya”, focused on pre-marital counselling for young couples.

Abl El Bedaya (Before the beginning) is a graduation project launched by Abdelrahman Ali, Donya Hani, Lujain Sami, Nada Al-Khatib, Nepal Saleh, Ola Khalid.

The bold and positive step is an attempt to raise awareness among young couples who are engaged of the many aspects of married life before they tie the knot. It is aimed at decreasing Egypt’s high rates of divorce in the long run.

Using Social Media platforms, the students introduced the concept of pre-marital counselling and raising awareness on its many benefits, whilst promoting it as a solution to divorce.

Divorce rates have been increasing around the world, and the Middle East is not immune to this reality.

The rising divorce rate in Egypt has caused significant social disturbance, moving the government to try and implement programmes to decrease the rate of couples going through with the process. Whether economic conditions are contributing factors or the emotional stress resulting from marriages in general, the fact of the matter remains the same – divorce rates are increasing in Egypt.

The Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS) has reported that Egypt has seen an 83% increase in divorce rates between 1996 and 2017. 

While in 1996 the divorce rate stood at 1.2 per 1,000 marriages, in 2017 divorce rates in Egypt were reported to be between 39.3% and 60.7%, depending on rural and urban locations.

The students had noticed that the divorce rates are higher among younger generations than the older. As a result, they decided to come up with a solution which is promoting pre-marriage counselling, targeting unmarried Egyptians in Cairo aged between 20 and 35.

Encouraging a new concept in Egyptian society, “Abl El Bedaya” provides the pre-marital counselling as a kind of couple’s therapy intended to help them prepare for marriage. It aims to help couples build a solid and healthy relationship.

This kind of therapy guides couples and opens up their minds to all the weaknesses they have, to prevent it from turning into serious problems after marriage.

The “Abl El Bedaya” campaign tries to reveal the real image of marriage to young couples, explaining the responsibilities that come with it.

It aims for the mental well-being through serving individuals, couples and corporates with psychotherapy and training.

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Ein Khudra, the hidden Diamond of Desert Wed, 10 Jun 2020 10:30:24 +0000 Legend has it that the oasis has a huge treasure trove of gold buried in days of yore

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Take a trip 70kms into the heart of the Sinai Desert, and you will find the Ein Khudra Oasis, located in a hidden basin, connected to a sandy plateau above, and the St Catherine Road by the White Canyon.

Habitation at the Ein Khudra Oasis dates back to Roman times, when caravans of pilgrims passed through the oasis to make use of its waters. With a bountiful supply of underground wells filled with potable water, the pilgrims depended entirely on the Ein Khudra Oasis’ water as they moved through Sinai’s unforgiving terrain on their way back to Rome.

The beautiful oasis has a pure natural lake and is characterised by its endless supply of natural treasures.

It isn’t just the natural jewels that attract interest too. There is a legend that talks of the existence of a huge treasure trove of gold buried thousands of years ago under the oasis’ sands by Egyptians of old. Needless to say, the treasure has yet to be found, staying hidden under the sands, and the legend remains firmly that – a legend.

It does not deter, however, the many people who believe in this legend going every year to try and uncover this treasure.

The oasis is surrounded by mountains and the sea with wonderful rock formations, that come together to create a wonderful panoramic view of the mountain tops, the trees and granite rocks.

Because the oasis sits like a green paradise in the heart of the desert, it was called El Khudra which translates as ‘the place has many plants’. It boasts many species of birds, animals, and trees, which increase the oasis’ splendour and beauty. The many palm trees, olives, and acacia trees that surround it from each side form a wonderful shape, giving the oasis a true feeling of calm surrounded by the desert.

Storks, hawks and eagles can also be found in the oasis, in addition to rabbits, mules, foxes, wolves, Arabian hedgehogs, and spiny mice.

Only a few hours drive away from Dahab, Ein Khudra is famed for its natural beauty and splendour as well as its Bedouin atmosphere. It has a number of Bedouin tents that receive visitors, giving them a true taste of the wonderful desert atmosphere and the calming effects of nature.

The marvellous oasis is also a beautiful example of what an oasis is, with several natural hot water springs bubbling up from the ground that have been there since time immemorial.

And although the oasis is based on an outcrop of groundwater, the cave where the water emerges used to have water overflowing from it. Due to the levels of groundwater lowering, it is now far from overflowing, and the spring is no longer there because the level of the groundwater has lowered.

With only the rustling leaves of palm trees and guava trees the most amount of noise you are likely to find there, you can join the few Bedouin who live in Ein Khudra with some goats.

According to legend, the oasis of Ein Khudra has been put forward as having a potential connection with the place mentioned several times in the Old Testament as Hazeroth, or in the Quran as the Exodus of Israel. This was also the Biblical site of the Israelite’s forty-year wanderings in the Sinai Peninsula.

Sadly, the oasis is not marked on most maps, leaving it mostly hidden from the trail of visitors. If you do find yourself wending your way to it, the best time to visit the oasis is during winter, when it is fully green, and people can see weeds and bright trees that have woken up on the back of the rains bursting out into a wonderful, dazzling view.

The post Ein Khudra, the hidden Diamond of Desert appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

‘I thought I would not recover’: COVID-19 survivors recount their ordeals Tue, 09 Jun 2020 10:00:30 +0000 'My 65-year-old mother spent 22 days at quarantine hospital and was then discharged,' says a survivor’s daughter 

The post ‘I thought I would not recover’: COVID-19 survivors recount their ordeals appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

The coronavirus (COVID-19) has spread pain and fear of infection or loss of loved ones, as over 7 million people worldwide have been infected with the virus. Of that figure, 3.4 million people, or 48.8% of total infections, have recovered. The global fatality rate due to the virus stands at 406,469 people.  


Whilst some people experience relatively mild symptoms, others show no symptoms at all, and those with severe or critical symptoms have to be hospitalised and quarantined. 


In Egypt, the recovery rate is relatively low. Of the country’s total confirmed number of cases, which currently stands at 34,079 a total of 8,961 people, or 26.3%, have recovered. There have been a total of 1,237 fatalities nationwide so far.  


Patients with mild symptoms of the coronavirus are required to self-isolate at home. Egypt’s Ministry of Health announced self-isolation instructions, and said it has provided patients with bags of preventive supplies and follow-up cards. 


About 85% of Egypt’s coronavirus infections have recovered without receiving medical treatment, as they showed mild symptoms, John Jabbour, World Health Organization (WHO) representative in Egypt, said in April. 


Everyone who has contracted the virus has a story to tell, whether they recovered from the coronavirus at home isolation or at a quarantine hospital. Those stories are full of fear, pain, uncertainty, and sometimes hope. 


Stories of coronavirus recovery are not limited to a specific age, either. There are elderly people with a history of chronic diseases who have recovered, despite this group appearing to be more vulnerable to the virus. There are also young people who have contracted the virus, although this certain age group once thought they were immune to it. 


The WHO said that older people are at highest risk of the coronavirus, although it hastened to add that “young people are not invincible.” It noted that 10-15% of people under 50 have moderate to severe infection.  


Rasha, who asked for only her first name to be used, a 40-year-old teacher from Alexandria, told Daily News Egypt about her experience with the pandemic.

She has suffered from asthma since childhood. When she experienced what she thought was an asthma attack, she headed to a doctor.

“He said it was bronchitis, but I asked him, is it COVID-19? He told me it might be, but we cannot be sure without a PCR test,” she said.  


Rasha took her medicine, but symptoms persisted. She was afraid of going to a fever hospital to have a PCR test because she was unsure if she was infected or not.

She also feared that she could contract the virus at the hospital. Rasha said that she had all the symptoms of the virus, including chest pains, a dry cough, shortness of breath, and a loss of smell and taste. Her temperature, however, remained lower than 38 degrees.


“It is terrifying to head to a [fever] hospital these days, as I could contract the virus [there] even if I was not infected. I feel that self-isolation is safer for me, especially as I had moderate symptoms,” she said. 


Instead, Rasha resorted to Ahalyna Corona Care, an online hospital offering medical consultations and follow-ups for mild to moderate cases of the virus that are in self-isolation at home. She contacted one of the initiative’s doctors, Dr Hani Abdul Hamid, who followed her case. 


Rasha had to get a nebulizer, a piece of medical equipment that is used by patients with asthma or other respiratory conditions to administer the medication directly and quickly to the lungs. As she lives with her parents, she isolated herself in her room for over two weeks. She and her mother wore face masks when Rasha received her meals.  


Rasha’s doctor asked her to stay at home for a further two weeks after recovery, before returning to work.

“I informed my manager that I was infected. I do not know how people will receive me, but I can imagine what it will be like, as most people treat coronavirus patients as if they are ‘infested’. I feel that we should not hide the coronavirus infection. It is our social responsibility. People have to speak up if they have symptoms because it could be coronavirus. They have to protect their community and isolate themselves if they do not need to be hospitalised,” Rasha narrated.


She added that people have to fear for themselves and for their loved ones, and not to underestimate any symptoms. She noted, “We have to be careful, but not to panic.”


“I have lived in terrible fear that I have never experienced before. You fear something you do not know, something you do not know when it would end,” she said. “When I began to recover, I said to myself: there is hope that we can recover from coronavirus. It is not impossible. Yes, it is painful psychologically and physically, but it happens that people recover.”  


22 days in a quarantine hospital 


Zainab, a 65-year-old woman from Cairo, recovered from the coronavirus after spending 22 days at a quarantine hospital, her daughter Safaa told Daily News Egypt. 


“We do not know the source of infection. She lives with my father and she may have contracted the virus from a delivery man or from any family member who had the virus but with no symptoms. We really do not know,” Safaa said. 


Zainab has been suffering from a chest allergy, so when she had a cough and a slight fever, Safaa and her family thought this might be related to the allergy.

“But when she suffered shortness of breathing, and symptoms worsened, we decided to take an action,” Safaa added. 


Zainab had a blood test and a CT scan that confirmed a positive coronavirus diagnosis.

“We headed to Imbaba Fever hospital and she had a PCR test,” Safaa said, “But we waited for three days until the results showed, and this is a very long period for a person whose condition is developing rapidly.”


“After she tested positive for the virus she was transferred to a quarantine hospital in Kafr El-Zayat, because we found no places for isolation in Cairo or Giza,” Safaa added.


Zainab spent a total of 22 days in the hospital.

“The isolation room was not well prepared for a patient, as there were plumbing problems and cleaning issues, but we made some contacts and the situation got better,” Safaa noted.


Newlyweds forced apart due to COVID-19


Hassan, 26, was among those quarantined in an isolation hospital in Zagazig after testing positive for the coronavirus.

“He has recovered and is waiting for the last PCR test to confirm his recovery. He is getting better,” his wife, who preferred not to be named, told Daily News Egypt. 


“We do not know from whom he contracted the virus, as he was going to his workplace in his private car wearing a face mask. There are coronavirus infections among his colleagues at work, but we are not sure if he contracted the virus from any of them,” she said. 


“He had a fever and thought he had caught a cold, but afterwards the symptoms worsened and he was transferred to a quarantine hospital,” his wife added. “These are hard times. We are a newly married couple, as we just got married two months ago. I hope he will return home soon.”


COVID-19 stories on social media

On social media, many Egyptians have shared their stories of recovery from the coronavirus. Some stories showed even a whole family can be infected. 


A female Facebook user, who was infected with the coronavirus along with her family, spoke of her experience after her recent recovery.

“COVID-19 is a dangerous enemy. You could experience loss of smell and taste as well as other symptoms that include fever and shortness of breath,” she said. “The most important thing to combat COVID-19 is to maintain high spirits and to not allow the virus to defeat you or affect your psychological well-being.” 


Another female Facebook user wrote, “My grandparents and other family members were discharged from hospital after recovering from the coronavirus.” 


On another positive endnote, the director of Esna Specialized Hospital said last week that two elderly patients, aged 75 and 85, recovered from the coronavirus and were discharged from the quarantine



The post ‘I thought I would not recover’: COVID-19 survivors recount their ordeals appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

Egyptian expats narrate their stories of loneliness during pandemic Sat, 06 Jun 2020 18:22:17 +0000 One young expat notes the psychological pain of being unable to return home if any of her family, especially her grandmother, was infected

The post Egyptian expats narrate their stories of loneliness during pandemic appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

As the world suffers the hardships of COVID-19, a common question everyone asks nowadays is: “When will things return to normal?” Dying to meet up with family and friends again and hug each other without fear of infection, people are frequently asking when we can go out without wearing masks or gloves, or holding hand sanitisers everywhere.

The novel coronavirus has brought life pretty much to a standstill, with social distancing even between relatives and friends the new norm. Many countries have also imposed partial or full lockdowns, keeping people at home, with many also cancelling large gatherings and events.

The virus has damaged the social lives of millions of people around the world, with many now reporting feelings of loneliness despite living in the same countries, and often quite near to families and friends. If any family member got infected with the coronavirus and was transferred to hospital, none of his/her loved ones can visit them. If one died of the virus, no one is able to say goodbye or hug him/her for the last time.

With many countries now slowly opening up and relaxing curfew timings where they have been put in place, people now have more of a chance to occasionally pass by each other. They are also better able to meet outside where social distancing is easier.

However, for people living abroad during the pandemic, and with international flights still, for the most part, suspended, the situation brings its own set of difficulties. 

“Lonely and unable to talk”

“I talk to my family every day, every few hours,” Dublin-based Yasmin Metwelly told Daily News Egypt. “I still remember one time during isolation, my mother in Egypt was running a high temperature and I was so worried, I was calling her every five minutes until she recovered.” 

Metwally arrived in Dublin in March for work, and has since been staying alone. She said that she has never stopped fearing for her family, as she can see rates of coronavirus infections in Egypt on the rise.

“If any of my family members, especially my grandmother, got infected, this will be psychologically painful. I will not even be able to fly to them,” she said.

Metwally added that she is not worried about herself, as she is committed to following the preventive procedures, including regular hand wash, santising, and wearing a face mask every time she goes out.  She certainly is about her family, however.

She said that she feels safe where she is, as the situation in Dublin is not bad. The city has low infection rates that are also already decreasing, with an average of only 40 cases reported per day. She also noted that hospitals are not overloaded and the medical system is fine there.

Regarding the preventive measures taken in Dublin, Metwally said, “Everything here is closed, including bars and restaurants. Only delivery services are allowed. Supermarkets are open, but a certain number of people are allowed to enter at one time, and we mostly stand in lines first.”

She noted that people are being asked to stay within a 5 km radius of their homes, with police supervising the situation.

“I am living alone, and as I work from home now, I have been in total isolation since March,” Metwally said. “The most I can do is to go to a supermarket, go for a run around my house, or sit by the sea.”

Talking of how she spends her time in quarantine, Metwally said, “Some days are good and some aren’t, sometimes I wake up very motivated, I work, order food or cook, watch something, then call my friends and family for social connection.”

She added, “On bad days, I feel that I can’t get out of bed, can’t work, and end up having a severe headache. I just feel I want the day to end soon as I want the quarantine to come to an end.”

“During my time in isolation, I read, I cook a lot, sometimes I bake as well. I try to get myself busy doing anything. I am currently learning yoga to be certified instructor,” she noted.

My biggest challenge is loneliness, as I feel that if I were staying with my family it would be different, and I would at least not be handling all responsibilities alone,” Metwally said, adding “I would even talk or fight with someone, I am in complete isolation.”

“I want to return home, but I cannot”

A 26-year-old Egyptian student living in Washington, who preferred to remain anonymous, said, “It’s mentally draining to be completely staying alone. I have a roommate, but we don’t get along.”

”I minimise my outings. I don’t meet people, and I only go for walks, or out to the grocery shops, otherwise I study at home.”

She added that it has been very stressful staying alone, especially as she can go for days without speaking. Between not knowing anyone in Washington, where she’s based, and her colleagues and friends having returned home across the US, the young student noted how alone she feels.

She also said that she wishes to return to Egypt to stay with her family given the circumstances, but she has to ensure that international flights will return permanently before she does. If she returned to Egypt and found herself unable to get back to Washington, her visa will be voided and she would be unable to continue her studies.

“I try to maintain my mental stability, but I become very sensitive,” the student said, adding “I am living in uncertainty, I can’t stay and I can’t get back home.”

She added that although there is good access to healthcare in Washington, her academic experience has been anything but beneficial following the shift to online learning. The student further added that she remains unmotivated, especially as she is learning no new skills.

“I spend 99% of my day surfing the internet”

Ramy Hassan, 39, is a manager at a hotel in Medina, Saudi Arabia. He said, “Most of the time, I am home, either working or calling my family, and I end up spending 99% of my day surfing the internet to socialise with family and finish my work.”

Hassan, whose two children stay with their mother in Egypt, has been in lockdown for several weeks.

“Every night, I think mostly about my future at work. I keep asking myself if they are going to sack me, since our business is one of the most impacted ones,” he said. “I keep asking myself what will happen if I returned to Egypt, will I be able to return [to Saudi Arabia] for work, and if I could not, will I find another work?”

Hassan noted that questions over the ongoing health crisis constantly flood his brain, including asking himself what will happen should he got infected with the coronavirus whilst he is alone.

As with others who spoke to Daily News Egypt, Hassan describes a feeling of hopelessness at being able to help himself.

He said that it has been an immense challenge looking after the health and safety of 200 hotel workers he is in charge of.

“I never stopped praying that this comes to an end, as I am worried about myself and my children,” Hassan said. “I was very ambitious, I had a lot of dreams, but everything stopped. My family was coming to visit me, but the coronavirus hindered everything, I am alone now and they are as well.”

The post Egyptian expats narrate their stories of loneliness during pandemic appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

Psychological impact of COVID-19 sees increase in depression, anxiety, grief Tue, 19 May 2020 11:46:53 +0000 Egyptians report fears and uncertainty as many unable to cope with added stress of pandemic  

The post Psychological impact of COVID-19 sees increase in depression, anxiety, grief  appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

The global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has not only put people’s physical health at risk, it has also had a devastating effect on mental health. The disease has forced many to stay home fearing infection or possibly death.

The pandemic, which started in China in December 2019, has changed that shape of the world. It has led to the closures of borders and public spaces, and the suspension of most public services, schools and flights. Globally, the pandemic has infected 4.8m people and claimed the lives of 316,925.

With many countries putting into effect complete or partial lockdowns, among other precautionary measures, populations are finding they are spending a lot of time at home. This also means they no longer have access to regular social activities or other means of daily life. 

As a result, people have reported they are suffering from trouble with sleep and insomnia, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, depression and panic attacks.

In an April report, the International Labour Organization (ILO) said that “a total of 81% of the global workforce of 3.3 billion people have had their workplace fully or partly closed”. Many people have the added stress of losing their jobs due to the economic side-effects of the virus.

Last week, UN Secretary-General António Guterres warned that the coronavirus “is not only attacking our physical health, it is also increasing psychological suffering, grief at the loss of loved ones, shock at the loss of jobs, isolation and restrictions on movement, difficult family dynamics, uncertainty and fear for the future.” 

He added, “Mental health problems, including depression and anxiety, are some of the greatest causes of misery in our world.”

Research published by King’s College London in the online journal Public Health found that quarantine measures are generally “an unsatisfactory experience for those enforced to go through them, as isolation from families and loved ones, distrusting of disease updates, boredom, are all factors that can cause tragic situations”.

The research that referenced 14 studies, found that “two studies reported the need to work and fear of loss of income as reasons for not adhering to quarantine protocols”.

“Participants also mentioned factors relating to ‘life carrying on’ outside of quarantine as reasons for not adhering,” the research continued. “Examples included needing to attend an important event or visiting family and friends.”

Depression, anxiety disorders increase

Dr Hesham Bahary, Head of the Department of Psychiatry at Al-Azhar University partnered with the Abbasiya Mental Health Hospital on the psychological impacts of the coronavirus pandemic for adults and children. 

Bahary told Daily News Egypt that they noticed an increase of depression and anxiety disorders with associated presentations, such as phobias, panic attacks, nervousness, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. 

He highlighted that increase in behavioural disorders, speech disorders, a tendency to violence, excessive nervousness, and anger were noticed in children and teenagers. 

Bahary noted that due to social distancing, school and sports clubs closure, children and teens have spent most of their time on the internet or watching TV. 

“As they have been isolated, not seeing friends or going to school, we noticed that some try to imitate cartoon characters, which results in what is known as identification with characters,” he said. 

Many people report they avoid seeking help at psychiatrists’ clinics due to fears of potential infection, and because they cannot afford to pay the cost of medical examination and treatment, due to financial problems.

Bahary said that people can try to overcome the effects of quarantine or social isolation by taking up hobbies or activities that can be undertaken at home, such as reading and sports.

“Families could create participatory activities with their children and held cultural or artistic discussion over books or movies to overcome the effect of social distancing,” Bahary said.

In March, the Ministry of Health’s mental health department set up hotlines offering psychological support during coronavirus shutdown. The two telephone numbers are 080-8880700 and 0220816831. 

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) has been offering advice to people in lockdown to face the psychological impacts of the virus. These include staying connected to others even if online, maintaining social networks, practicing sports, sleeping well, eating healthily, and avoid continual exposure to news. 

“I live in panic and fear”

Laila, 35 (who asked for her name to be changed), lives in Giza and has been suffering from severe depression and anxiety disorders since 2013. She does not trust online psychological consultations. 

Speaking to Daily News Egypt, Laila said, “I do not trust such online consultations, I feel I will not be safe and that my conversations with the psychiatrist could be leaked.”

Since March, and with the increasing number of coronavirus infections in Egypt, the government has enforced a night time curfew. It has also shut down entertainment venues, cinemas, theatres and closed schools and universities, calling on citizens to stay home and commit to social distancing. 

Since then, Laila has been suffering regularly from depression, panic attacks, nightmares, and insomnia. 

“Unfortunately, I can not afford to go to a psychiatrist these days, so I get my old prescription and take my antidepressant and benzodiazepines to handle my mental health during this difficult time,” she said. “I live in a state of panic and fear. I still have to go to work three days a week, and I fear I could contract coronavirus and transmit it to my ill mother who suffers from chronic diseases.”

Laila also said that she panicked on finding out that a neighbour had tested positive for the coronavirus, and was transferred to an intensive care unit.

She noted that now, she only works or sleeps, with no other activity during her day.

“I do not see my friends. I do not go to my college where I take part free studies. Before the coronavirus, I was able to handle my mental health through social activities, seeing friends and the people I love, as we share stories or problems,” Laila said, “I used to go to the cinema and spend good times. But now, I am deprived of all of this.” 


She added, “However, the most difficult part is that you do not know when the pandemic will end or when an effective and safe vaccine will be found. Our life has been suspended, and only God knows when we will get it back.” 

At the end, Laila noted, “Maybe normal people could handle this issue easier than us, we who suffer from mental health issues. We can not handle fears of losing our loved ones or panic from being sick and find no hospital for treatment.”

“I overeat or oversleep to handle loneliness, anxiety”

Mohamed (who asked for only his first name to be used) 27-year-old, who lives in Dubai for work, said his biggest fear is that one of his family members contracts the coronavirus whilst he remains trapped in the UAE. 

“The coronavirus has had a bad effect on my psychological health, but I try to avoid facing the consequences through overeating, oversleeping and running from my thoughts,” Mohamed told Daily News Egypt. 

“Sometimes I cry, sometimes I have nightmares. But overall I am trying to be fine by telling myself: What else will happen? I am far away from my family and I am not able to go to them if something bad happens,” Mohamed says. “I am not able to share with them the usual social moments such as spending Ramadan or Eid Al-Fitr with them, and I am alone here spending all my time working or sleeping to overcome anxiety, panic and loneliness.” 

Mohamed said that pandemic has changed the world, and made the streets frightening.

“If I go out to buy something, I feel it is the end of the world, and the streets are like hospitals, people wearing face masks and afraid of contact or infections,” he said, adding, “Everything suddenly changed, and now we have to face this fact.” 

Meanwhile, 30-year-old Cairo resident, Norah, (who also asked for her first name to be used) said that she lost her work due to the coronavirus, and she is now suffering from financial problems. 

“The only money I have is from the March salary. My wedding was supposed to be in April. But of course, it was postponed due to the pandemic,” Noha told Daily News Egypt. “I am not OK, psychologically. Everything is bad, and it does not matter at all what will happen next.”

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Will Covid-19 be nail in the coffin of print journalism? Tue, 05 May 2020 10:00:48 +0000 ‘People would prefer digital journalism to avoid the contagion of coronavirus through touching newspapers,’ says professor

The post Will Covid-19 be nail in the coffin of print journalism? appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

Coronavirus pandemic poses a new challenge for print journalism globally amid fears of contagion. There are concerns that the crisis will help bring about the end of the already struggling industry. 

With more than 3.6 million coronavirus cases and 247,000 deaths across over 100 countries, several countries in the Middle East, such as Jordan, Morocco, Kuwait, and Tunisia, halted print newspapers as a precautionary measure to limit the transmission of the virus.

Several newspapers have individually suspended their print edition temporarily such as Saudi daily newspaper Okaz.

Curfews enforced by many countries to curb the outbreak of coronavirus have added insult to injury as many newspapers and magazines face difficulties in distribution and printing. 

Long before the pandemic, Egyptian print journalism has been struggling to survive in the wake of the liberalisation of local currency in 2016 which increased the prices of paper. Additionally, over the last years, print journalism in Egypt has been suffering from a decline in distribution rate and advertisement, and low-quality content. With the Covid-19 fallout, subscriptions and advertisements are expected to decrease further as the people fear contagion of the virus.

In the time of digital journalism, newspapers have been thrashing about to maintain their readership as more people tend to consume news online where the content is interactive and includes multimedia elements. 

Many observers believe if coronavirus did not end newspapers, it would at least affect its future and sustainability.

Investing in digital platforms

Saving print journalism needs more efforts to make, including changing the business models, improving content, and creating a strong digital presence through multimedia storytelling or providing application software for newspapers.

Khaled ElBaramawy, a digital media expert, told Daily News Egypt that print journalism has been affected by the coronavirus, not only in Egypt but in the whole world. He added that print journalism in the Arab countries witnessed a significant decline regarding proliferation and influence.

“Arabic newspapers which invest in digital platforms will survive the coronavirus, while newspapers which had not done that, they are expected to be affected,” ElBaramawy said.

He noted that the newspapers industry in Egypt has many issues regarding printing, distribution, and content.

In the time of coronavirus, the people would need newspapers for entertainment and knowledge. Press institutions can overcome the fears of infection through packaging the newspapers and delivering them to readers’ homes free of charge.

“But above all, they have to produce in-depth and valuable content because people will never pay for journalism that does not have new information or analysis,” ElBaramawy explained.

Print journalism in the United States, Europe, and Japan is in a better position because of the profit model and digital subscription; therefore it will cope with challenges.

“I am afraid it is too late for newspapers which did not find other means of profit to overcome this period without loses. But I believe that there are some people who still interested in getting a newspaper,” ElBaramawy said.

He added that press institutions could introduce some solutions to attract readers during the crisis, such as offering free delivery and free first month, and switching from daily to weekly publication.

ElBaramawy believes major newspapers in Egypt only distribute about 10,000 copies daily, adding that increasing this figure to 4,000 or 5,000 is not difficult, but represents a challenge in the Egyptian market.

In a report published on Sunday marking the World Press Freedom Day, the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics said the daily distribution rate of newspapers reached 1.4m copies in 2018.

The report added that there were 70 public newspapers in Egypt, including three party newspapers, in 2018, compared to 76 newspapers in 2017, a decrease of 7.9%.

The report added that the number of copies distributed by public newspapers locally and abroad reached 547.2m in 2018, compared to 510.2m copies in 2017, an increase of 7.2%.

Coup de grâce

Nouha Belaid, a Tunisian professor of journalism at Manouba University, told DNE that print journalism has suffered from several challenges during the last 10 years, most notably maintaining their readership amid the availability of information on social media and the spread of digital media.

“If new technology media pose a threat to print journalism, coronavirus poses a greater threat especially with fears of using paper amid the domination of the virtual world,” she said.

“As information is available online, people would prefer online content than print journalism to protect their health and to avoid the contagion of coronavirus through touching newspapers,” Belaid added. 

She believes print journalism has no escape from coronavirus. “It is time for print journalism to die out. Even if we enjoy reading a newspaper, just thinking of our health will prevent us from doing this.”

However, she said that providing a PDF version of a newspaper could allow people to read it from home. “Changing the business model and depending on subscriptions instead of individual sale for newspapers could help a little.”

On the other hand, Yasser Abdel-Aziz, a media expert, told DNE that print journalism has been facing a profound crisis even before the coronavirus, which could be dubbed “an inconsistency with the future.”

Abdel-Aziz highlighted that almost half of the world population uses the Internet, mostly young people, amid a remarkable decline in depending on print journalism for getting information.

He pointed out that the crisis of print journalism has many aspects which are economic and environmental; pointing out that the digital advertising became more feasible than in print journalism. He highlighted that the world became aware now of the risks of using paper, which also affected the newspapers industry. 

Print journalism was fading and the coronavirus would deliver “the coup de grace” on it, Abdel-Azizi said.

However, he believes that press institutions that adopt a diverse strategy depending on both online and print journalism will survive the coronavirus crisis, while those only depending on the print will pay the price. But print journalism will maintain a limited existence in the future anyway, he concluded.

The post Will Covid-19 be nail in the coffin of print journalism? appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

Female domestic workers stuck between rock and hard place Sun, 05 Apr 2020 08:00:55 +0000 "I only have two options. If I stayed at home, I will die of hunger. If I went out, I might die of disease," says day labourer 

The post Female domestic workers stuck between rock and hard place  appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

Female domestic workers have borne the brunt of the government’s precautionary measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). Many, who depend on their daily wages to survive, now face dire financial straits as work dries up due to government calls to stay at home.

The number of Egypt’s coronavirus cases increased to 985 with 66 deaths on Friday, according to the Health Ministry. Since the disease came to Egypt, the government has taken several measures, including imposing a night curfew, suspending flights and schools, shutting all coffee shops and entertainment venues, and restaurants only run delivery services. The decision excludes pharmacies, bakeries, and grocery stores.

Many domestic workers have been asked by the families they work for to temporarily stop coming amid fears of contagion, and calls to either practice social distancing and simply stay at home. But staying at home is not an easy option for many people. 

Um Yahiya, who requested her name be changed, returned to her home in Giza last week with a few food supplies after she lost her intermittent work which brought her EGP 2,400 a month.  


“I only have EGP 100 in my pocket, and I do not know how to feed my son after I spend that money,” she said.

The 34-year-old is a housekeeper with a daily wage of EGP 250-EGP 300. She provides her services for two houses twice a month, working for other households upon request. She also works as a cleaner at two companies, with a daily wage of EGP 300. She was doing fine until the coronavirus hit the country.

“The two companies informed me in early March that work will be suspended until further notice,” she said. 

One of the two companies paid her in advance for the days she usually works (around 12 times a month), while the other only paid her for the two days she had already worked in March.


As for the two households she worked for, in Giza and Cairo, one still allows her to work, while the other told her not to come until further notice.

“I cannot afford to stay at home. If I did, I will not find money to feed my child. I have to choose between my health and my child’s wellbeing. I only have two options. If I stayed at home, I will die of hunger, and if I went out, I might die of disease,” she said. 

“The government has to look after us. It has to support the day workers. The prices of everything are increasing. I cry every day because I am afraid this crisis will not end soon. My husband is a microbus driver. Because of the night curfew now he is working only two days a week, and he expects to lose his work soon,” she added.


Um Yahiya is one of millions of irregular and vulnerable workers in Egypt. They are the segment of society most affected by the government’s recent measures aiming to curb the spread the coronavirus. 


To support them, the Ministry of Manpower has encouraged irregular workers to register on the ministry’s database to receive exceptional assistance worth EGP 500 per family. More than 1.3 million workers have registered so far. 

But for Um Yahiya, the EGP 500 is a meagre aid. “This is not enough for anyone. How can I cover my expenses with this sum?” she asks. 


There are different estimates regarding the numbers of informal and irregular workers in Egypt. According to the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS), the number of people who depend on intermittent work was roughly 4.3 million in the third quarter (Q3) of 2019. However, according to Minister of Manpower Mohamed Saafan, there are over 10 million irregular workers in Egypt. 


I am not afraid of death”

Um Islam is another domestic worker who had to borrow some money to feed her three children after she had lost her work due to the fears surrounding COVID-19.


“The people I work for phoned me and said: Do not come. We are afraid that you would contract the disease and transmit it to us because you ride public transportation,” she said. 


Um Islam, 55, lives in Bashtil, a small village in GizaShe is the breadwinner for young household of three children, aged 21, 17, and 9. She had a fourth child, a daughter, but she died four years ago. Her husband abandoned the family and married another woman. “He left us. He never asked or offered to spend money on his children,” she said. 


Um Islam’s day wage ranges between EGP 130-150. In addition to working as a housekeeper, she works as elderly-sitter for a woman for only EGP 50 per day. 


“I have been working for this lady for almost 10 years, but her family only pay EGP 50, with no [periodic] increase,” she said. 

But at least, she added, this work, which she went to three times a week, is the only work that was not suspended. “She told me to come once a week,” she said. 


“What I fear the most is not death, but to die in the street and nobody would save me out of fear of contagion. I do not want to be at anyone’s mercy. People have changed. They are cruel. But God will never leave us because God knows we are impoverished and powerless,” she said.  


About 32.5% of Egyptians now live below the poverty line, up from 27.8% in 2015, and 16.7% in 2000, according to the 2019 CAPMAS report. The report added that 6.2% of Egyptians live in extreme poverty. 


Upper Egypt topped the list of poorest areas in the county, with Assiut at the forefront with a poverty rate of 66.7%. This was followed by Sohag at 59.6%, Luxor at 55.3%, Minya at 54%, and Qena at 41%.


Noha, who has also requested for her name to be changed, is a domestic worker who cleans and sometimes cooks. The 21-year-old is from Fayoum, although her family left its hometown and moved to Cairo eight years ago. She said that her daily wage is EGP 150-200. 

“Now I am home with no work. Everyone asked me to stay at home, because they fear the virus. They are good people, two of them offered to pay my wage as if I am still working. But I was embarrassed to take the money,” Noha said. 

“My mother is sick and my father is an elderly. My brothers and I had to work at an early age. All of us have lost our jobs, expect one of my brothers who is still working, because he works at a bakery,” she added. “I do not know what we will do if this situation continues. We can handle the matter for a month, but after that, we do not know what will happen. We depend on daily wages, and no work means no money.”  

The post Female domestic workers stuck between rock and hard place  appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

Coronavirus outbreak: More world officials infected Mon, 30 Mar 2020 09:00:30 +0000 UK PM and health minister join list of officials tested positive for coronavirus

The post Coronavirus outbreak: More world officials infected  appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Health Minister Hancock have tested positive for the novel coronavirus (Covid-19). They join a growing list of world politicians and officials who have contracted the potentially deadly pathogen, which has already claimed thousands of lives globally. 


UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson

The pandemic has infected 640,589 worldwide, with a death toll of 29,848 and 137,270 recoveries until Saturday, according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering.  



In addition to Johnson and Hancock, Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales and heir to the throne, also tested positive to the virus last week. The UK Junior Health Minister and Conservative MP Nadine Dorries and the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier have also contracted the virus. 

Moreover, England’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty has been in self-isolation after experiencing coronavirus symptoms.


Earlier last week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel went into quarantine after meeting a coronavirus-positive doctor. However, she later twice tested negative for the disease. 

Friedrich Merz, one of the most likely candidates to succeed Merkel, tested positive for coronavirus.


Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, the wife of Canadian PM Justin Trudeau


Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, the wife of Canadian PM Justin Trudeau, tested positive for coronavirus on 12 March after returning from a trip to London. Trudeau entered 14 days of quarantine, taking to running his country from isolation.

However, Sophie announced on Sunday that she recovered from the disease and received the clearance from her doctor and the Ottawa Public Health.



Fábio Wajngarten, the communications director for President Jair Bolsonaro, tested positive for the virus. The Brazilian official had met US President Donald Trump who later tested negative for the coronavirus. 

Bolsonaro’s national security adviser Augusto Heleno, the mines and energy minister Bento Albuquerque, and the head of Senate Davi Alcolumbre all also tested positive for the virus. 



Begoña Gómez, the wife of Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, also tested positive for the virus. Both remained in the prime minister’s residence at La Moncloa in Madrid. 

In addition, Spain’s Deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo tested positive for coronavirus. 



French Culture Minister Franck Riester tested positive for coronavirus, in addition to five other French parliamentarians. This included Brune Poirson, secretary of state to the minister of ecological and inclusive transition.


Burkina Faso 


Burkina Faso’s ministers of foreign affairs, mines, education, and interior all tested positive for coronavirus. 

Reuters reported that the Italian ambassador to Burkina Faso, Andrea Romussi, also contracted the virus. 



Iran is one of the worst-hit countries by coronavirus. It has the largest share of former officials, politicians, and religious figures who contracted the virus, with a number of them succumbing. 

Mohammad Mirmohammadi, an adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has died after contracting coronavirus. 


One of the country’s top clerics, HadiKhosroshahi, also died of the virus. 

The list of infections includes Vice President Masoumeh Ebtekar, Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi, MP Fatemeh Rahbar, MP Tehran Mohammad Ali Ramezani, Head of Disaster Management Ismail Najjar, , Foreign Policy Advisor to the Supreme Leader Ali Akbar Velayati, Minister of Tourism Ali Asghar Mounesan, and lawmaker Mojtaba Zonnour. 


United States 


Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said last week that a “handful” of his Department employees have tested positive for coronavirus. 

Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky tested positive for coronavirus, becoming the first case in the Senate.  

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez also tested positive for coronavirus.



Peter Dutton, Australian home affairs minister, who recently travelled to Washington DC and met with President Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, tested positive for coronavirus.

Queensland LNP senator Susan McDonald has also tested positive. 



Nicola Zingaretti, the leader of Italy’s Democratic Party, one of the national ruling parties, tested positive for coronavirus.

Giorgio Valoti, the mayor of nearby Cene, and Roberto Stella, the president of the order of doctors in Varese, both died of the virus. 



Torbjorn Roe Isaksen, the minister of labour and social inclusion, contracted the virus. 



Prince Albert of Monaco also tested positive for the coronavirus. 


Jaroslaw Mika, the general commander of Poland’s armed forces, tested positive for the coronavirus after returning from a military conference in Germany. Polish Environment Minister Michal Wos also tested positive for coronavirus. 

United Nations 


UN World Food Programme Executive Director David Beasley announced that he has been diagnosed with coronavirus after returning from an official visit to Canada.  

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Prominent celebrities contract coronavirus Mon, 30 Mar 2020 08:00:16 +0000 Events put on hold worldwide as pandemic continues

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In efforts to curb the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) worldwide, entertainment events have been cancelled and sports competitions have been put on hold. However, the numbers of infections among celebrities are still rising, with many put under quarantine or self-isolation at home.

Tom Hanks was Hollywood’s first confirmed high-profile case in the outbreak on 11 March, as the American actor announced that he and his wife, Rita Wilson, had contracted coronavirus while travelling in Australia. Since then, dozens of public figures have been diagnosed with the virus.

As the novel virus spreads fast, tragically, the death toll also continues to rise. Here are all the celebrities who have tested positive for coronavirus so far.

Tom Hanks

The veteran actor Tom Hanks shared on Twitter that he and his wife, actress and singer Rita Wilson, tested positive for coronavirus whilst in Australia. The diagnosis comes as he was preparing to shoot a new film entitled Elvis. He and his wife started to feel flu-like symptoms before testing positive for the virus. According to a 28 March report from E and People magazines, the couple has returned to Los Angeles following their recovery.

Rachel Matthews

Olga Kurylenko

On 15 March, Ukraine-born French actress and model Olga Kurylenko tested positive for the virus. Kurylenko, who starred in the 2008 James Bond film Quantum of Solace, announced her positive diagnosis via Instagram, urging her followers to take the virus seriously.

Idris Elba

On 16 March, British actor Idris Elban announced his positive diagnosis via Twitter, explaining that he remains asymptomatic. He added that he decided to go for testing after discovering he was exposed to someone who had been diagnosed with the virus.

Kristofer Hivju

On 16 March, Norwegian actor Kristofer Hivju said he had tested positive for the virus, sharing a photo on Instagram to announce the news. Hivju, best known for his role on HBO’s Game of Thrones, is self-isolating at home with mild symptoms.

Rachel Matthews

On 16 March, actress Rachel Matthews, who voiced the character of Honeymaren in Frozen 2, said she tested positive for coronavirus. She had been in self-quarantine for several days.

Daniel Dae Kim

On 19 March, the Lost and Hawaii Five-0 actor announced his coronavirus diagnosis, and that he is currently in self-isolation at his home in Hawaii.

Plácido Domingo

Plácido Domingo

The world famous Spanish opera singer announced his own coronavirus diagnosis via Facebook, and that he had been hospitalised in Acapulco, Mexico days later.

Natalie Horner

On 23 March, the German singer and television presenter Natalie Horner announced on Instagram that she tested positive for coronavirus. “My case will most likely be mild, so the most important thing is to protect everyone else who may be at risk,” she said.

Global sports community also affected

Coronavirus has also had a significant impact on the global sports community. Many athletes have also tested positive for the rapidly spreading virus, leaving sports associations worldwide with no choice but to halt all sports events. Here are the most prominent athletes who have tested positive for coronavirus.

Rudy Gobert

Rudy Gobert

The French professional basketball player, who currently plays for the NBA’s Utah Jazz, became the first NBA player to catch coronavirus on 11 March.

Mikel Arteta

Arteta, Arsenal Football Club’s Spanish head coach, was diagnosed with the virus on 12 March. He was the first in England’s football League to test positive for coronavirus.

Fernando Gaviria Rendon

The Colombian professional road and track racing cyclist announced on Instagram that he had tested positive for coronavirus on 12 March.  He went down with the virus after racing for Team Emirates as part of the UAE Tour.

Dmitry Strakhov

The Russian professional racing cyclist, who currently rides for UCI ProTeam Gazprom–RusVelo was confirmed to have the virus on 12 March. He was also diagnosed after participating in the UAE Tour.

Blaise Matuidi and Daniele Rugani

Matuidi and Rugani are the first and second players from the Italian soccer team Juventus to test positive for coronavirus on 11 and 17 March respectively.

Deaths among celebrities

Floyd Cardoz, a 59-year-old Celebrity chef who won “Top Chef Masters”, died on 25 March after his coronavirus diagnosis. He had been feeling unwell for about a week since returning from a trip to his native India.

David Edwards and Lee Green, both of whom were star American college basketball players in the 1990s, both died on 23 March, reportedly of coronavirus.

The 86-year-old Cameroonian saxophonist, Manu Dibango, died on 24 March in Paris. He was best-known for his 1972 hit “Soul Makossa”.

Terrence McNally, the legendary playwright and screenwriter, died at 81 on 24 March from coronavirus-related complications. He had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and had also survived lung cancer.

Mark Blum, a 69-years-old stage, film and TV actor, best known for his role in the Crocodile Dundee films, died on 26 March from complications from coronavirus.

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Amid coronavirus pandemic, Egyptian teachers and families struggle to cope with online education Wed, 25 Mar 2020 06:00:20 +0000 “Students are not always dedicated in normal classroom lectures, so it's difficult to let them shoulder all the responsibility,” says university lecturer

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With the coronavirus pandemic disrupting classroom education in Egypt and across the world, teachers are trying to keep instruction going and staying connected to their students during a hiatus that could last weeks and possibly longer. The rapid global adoption of online education led teachers, administrators and parents to lean on each other as they try to figure things out on the move.

After Egypt reported several confirmed coronavirus cases, teachers learned two weeks ago that — ready or not — they’d have to lead the way on what’s likely to become the largest online education experiment this country has seen. On Tuesday, Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly announced that schools and universities suspension will be extended for an additional 15 days.

Qualifying schools to move instruction online is a massive undertaking. However, the new online education system applied by the Ministry of Education in 2017 for secondary schooling has cushioned the impact. Dozens of teachers from diverse stages were trained in dealing with the online educational system as part of the ministry’s reform plan.

Yet, teachers at thousands of schools across the country are struggling for ways to teach students stuck at home.

People have been querying about the success of the experiment. Daily News Egypt spoke to some parents, students, and teachers from different school levels, as well as university lecturers and students, to find out how they handled the sudden transition to remote learning.

Parents of students in primary stages burdened with responsibilities

Rovane Al-Tair, a primary level English Teacher at a private school in 6th of October, shares lessons on Google Classroom, explaining that there is a designated teacher for every class, responsible for creating the account, inviting all teachers giving lessons and students’ parents to join.

Al-Tair’s school sent an email to all parents explaining how the education process will proceed in the next period, describing the email as the only communication between parents and school administration.

“We explained to them how to use Google Classroom, create accounts, and leave comments if they have questions,” Al-Tair said.

As an English teacher, she provides the studying material through PowerPoint presentation, and record audio explaining the content of each slide to her students. “We create, insert home works and sheets for students, supported by online model answers as well.”

Google Classroom, is a free app that allows students to access 20-minute assignments from a computer or mobile device. Teachers can track student progress, grade coursework, and provide feedback.

“We focus on the information that young students need in the upcoming education year,” Al-Tair said, explaining that, “for the primary stage, the burden is all on the parents, they should supervise the process and train their children on how to use the application and download documents since their children are very young.”

The teacher decided not to live-stream her classes, as students in this age will not be fully committed during the online class, instead, she uploads the latest lesson, and she has also created a virtual gallery, so kids and parents alike can view and leave comments.

Last week, the Minister of Education announced that students of first and second kindergarten and first and second primary grades will be required to prepare an assessment report to ensure students have completed the curriculum published in the electronic library.

“The situation is not clear so far, while the governor had already developed an electronic system for all students across all levels,” said Fatma Mohamed, whose daughter is a fifth-grader in a Beni Suef school.

She revealed that the school created a WhatsApp group, where teachers send each lesson in videos for different subjects, “my daughter is supposed to prepare a research project by the end of the year instead of final exams, and we only received PDF documents about it.”

Noura Abdel Hadi, mother of three students, in primary, preparatory, and secondary stages said that she is optimistic about the new system, but she is worried that her children will be not as committed when they’re not face-to-face with a teacher that can connect with them.

Abdel Hady added that “my son in primary level and my daughter in preparatory level are on vacation so far. Their school have not yet switched to an online system, however, they are temporarily following with the students via Whatsapp groups to send videos and educational material.”

However, her son will start online learning on Thursday and she waiting for his school to send a username and password to login to the e-learning website prepared. “In April, my daughter’s school will tell us about the online platform which we are supposed to give us, give us more information about the project and how students can work on it,” the mother explained.

Moreover, the mother also said that for her elder daughter in secondary school follows her teachers on Whatsapp, watches educational channels on TV, and uses various online platforms where she can get the knowledge from.

The students in the third primary to second preparatory will be able to contact class teachers via the ministry’s electronic platform to assist them conducting research in two months starting Thursday, Minister of Education announced last week.

Shawky said on Monday that it was agreed with the National Media Authority (NMA) to prepare lessons under the supervision of the ministry for the students of secondary school. He said that these lessons will be provided in high quality on educational channels at the earliest opportunity, in addition to providing the same service to other students in preparatory level.

Thanaweya Amma students left on their own

Thanaweya Amma, Egypt’s secondary school certificate, have recently been through several changes.

The mother of Hazem Ali, a third secondary level student, in a school at Giza’s El Hawamdeya, said that her son’s school has not communicated with them. But, her son continues his private lessons through online websites only.

She also explained that every teacher starts his live video at a certain time, without consideration to attendance.”

The mother added there is also a WhatsApp group with every teacher to follow up with students, but she is worried that students are not committed.

” Egyptian students are not fully committed without direct teacher supervision. Without a high level of consistency and structured routines, they just are lost, it’s a burden on them and for parents.”

It was not a different story for another third secondary level student Mariam Ahmed, who said that she is unsatisfied with the online learning so far, especially for the Arabic subject.

“I am used to solving grammar exercises with my teacher during the class, now it is a little bit difficult to practice alone,” the 18-year old student said. She explained that they are receiving videos through different platforms Facebook, Youtube and Whatsapp but not enough exercising on the provided information.

However, Ahmed also noted that some teachers follow up on them, downloading videos and only a few solve exercises during the video.

For the psychology and sociology subjects, she explained that the teacher only sends audio recordings demonstrating lessons, but so far no online exercises or exams.

When she asked how she assesses the live videos, the student said “I don’t like live videos, as some students can be a distraction and teachers can not control them, unlike the normal classroom. She prefers recorded videos.

“Some of my colleagues did not even start online private lessons, still waiting for the teachers to decide which application they will use. Some teachers are not satisfied with working before being pre-paid while others are still searching for online paid educational websites.”

The minister said that the final year exams for the first and second secondary grades will be done on a tablet device remotely and marked electronically. The results of the exam will be sent to the students online.

Egypt’s Knowledge Bank plays an important role in the new system of secondary education, inside and outside the school. It includes new content to assist students in their studies and all the curriculum.

Among the most prominent content added to the Knowledge Bank are educational programmes for all ages, as well as interactive mathematics programmes for the first to the third secondary grades, in addition to three-dimensional films in science and mathematics.

University students are facing fewer struggles

A lecturer at the faculty of Mass Communication in a private university in 6th of October city said: “We are using Zoom and WhatsApp group to contact with the students. So far it’s going fine, I would rate the experiment’s success at 65%-70%. Nevertheless, students are panicking and stressed out due to the surrounding conditions, which, unfortunately, affect their commitment and attendance.”

“Students are not always dedicated in normal classroom lectures, so it’s difficult to let them shoulder all the responsibility. Attendance was graded before, but now they have to attend for personal benefit, so the results are not very satisfactory,” the lecturer said.

She complained about internet connection, as there the network in Egypt is overloaded. “During lessons, some students face connection issues, which makes them miss some segments of the lecture. I keep repeating the explantation every time this happens and this wastes a lot of time.”

The lecturer also complained that the bulk of universities did not purchase programme licenses, so educators are using free trials. “Free trial offers 40-minutes only when the session ends I have to repeat the same process all-over.”

Regarding the exams, she said: “ We didn’t receive final decision yet, the ministry of higher education, said before that we can add the grades of mid-terms to final exams. But as a private university that has accreditation from a foreign university they did not like the idea, so we are still waiting for the university’s final decision.”

“In case we hold midterm exams it will be in the form of assignments and finals will be online through the university’s online portal. While final exams can be replaced with a thesis, critical analysis, or open-book exams,” she added.

Reem El-Kady, a student in the second year in faculty of pharmacy in Cairo university said that the professors send them recorded video lectures and provide them with PDF documents including all information.

“We use Google Classroom, for every professor, there is a folder where he adds the data of the subject whether video or PDF. When the video is ready we receive notification through the faculty’s email. There is no WhatsApp group and if we have concerns we contact professors through email and they respond directly, they are cooperative and lectures are always sent on time,” El-Kady said.

“After midterm exams were cancelled, we were assigned to do research and presentations instead. Other doctors created open-book quizzes, she said.

She also added that “As practical faculty, the issue is that we don’t go for labs anymore, but doctors promised to give all lab sessions in summer vacation in case we did not return before the end of May to universities.

Final exams in El-Kady’s faculty were postponed to end-May, for her switching to online education did not make any difference, “at university I was not allowed to ask the professor during lectures, I had to wait for them at their office, now I contact them directly.”

Another lecturer in the faculty of dentistry in Beni Suef University told Daily News Egypt, “We were told to prepare and upload lectures that would normally be spread over two months, in just two weeks. It is a very stressful task.”

She also believes that online education equated both dedicated and uncommitted students, as they will both have all the data regardless if they attend the lectures or not.

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What has happened in Egypt since discovering 1st COVID-19 case? Tue, 24 Mar 2020 14:17:34 +0000 Egypt has taken several measures on economic, medical, social, educational levels

The post What has happened in Egypt since discovering 1st COVID-19 case? appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

As the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) spreads rapidly across the world, forcing different countries to take strict and emergency measures to curb the crisis and cushion its impacts socially and economically, Egypt was no exception as the government has followed suit and responded efficiently to the threat.

Egypt officially reported the first COVID-19 case on 14 February. Since then, Egypt has taken several measures on economic, medical, social, and educational levels. Daily News Egypt reviews what has happened in Egypt during the past weeks in this regard.

Egypt’s Health Ministry announced four new coronavirus fatalities on Sunday, the highest death toll on one day since the virus was first detected in the country. The ministry also announced 33 new cases of the virus, bringing the total to 327 and the total deaths to 14.

President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi called for more discipline to control the spread of coronavirus, saying the state has taken several decisions, but “the virus is spreading significantly … and we need the society to help us more with commitment and discipline.”

Emergency economic measures

President Al-Sisi announced allocation of EGP 100bn to confront COVID-19, reducing the prices of natural gas and electricity for industry.

He also ordered launching “Troubled Clients” initiative for those affected in the tourism sector, providing EGP 1bn for exporters in March and April to pay some of their dues, lifting administrative reservations on all financiers who have due taxes for only 10% of tax.

The Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) slashed its basic interest rates by 300 basis points during an unscheduled meeting on 16 March, bringing overnight deposit and lending rate as well as main operation to 9.25%, 10.25%, and 9.75%, respectively. The CBE also deferred credit dues for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) for a period of 6 months, and ordered no fines on delayed payment.

Moreover, the CBE allocated EGP 20bn to support the Egyptian Exchange after it incurred heavy losses due to the coronavirus fears. The bank also ordered banks operating in the country this week not to impose fines on non-performing loans, directing banks as well to delay credit dues for institutions and individual clients, including consumer loans and mortgage finance for a period of six months.

Al-Sisi also allocated EGP 1bn for exporters in March and April to repay their entitlements, and delayed real estate tax payments for factories and tourist facilities for a 3-month period.

The president extended the suspension of the tax on agricultural lands (14% of cropland lease value per feddan) for two years. He also increased annual bonus of pensions to 14% as of July and included retired employees in the five bonuses allocated to employees in service (valued at 80% of their basic salaries before retirement).

Egypt’s nightlife silenced by COVID-19

Last week, the state has ordered closure of all restaurants, cafes, casinos, nightclubs, shopping malls from 7 pm to 6 am daily until 31 March, excluding pharmacies, bakeries, and grocery stores. Some local media reported that those who violate the closure order will be fined. Also, a hotline was launched for citizens to report violations.

Social media campaigns were launched calling on people to stay home for everyone’s safety. Media also launched awareness campaigns on how to protect oneself from the virus. Others focused on things the people can do while in homestay to avoid boredom and tips on how to work from home.

Also, many supermarkets and groceries offered free delivery to prevent people from going out to ensure social distancing.

Officials also in several entities have been calling on people to stay home. Deputy Chief of the Egyptian Railway Authority Samy Abdel-Tawab called on Egyptians to avoid using public transportation unless necessary to curb the outbreak of COVID-19, adding that decreasing the number of commuters or trains will not solve the crisis.

Ministry of Interior suspended all visits to prison inmates until end-March, in a bid to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Moreover, the government and private sector offered remote work for many employees, however there are others who still work in office, especially those in public services. The state has also allowed working mothers with young children to stay home.

Ministry of Awqaf (Religious Endowments) suspended daily prayers and weekly Friday prayers for two weeks, as well as suspended marriage and condolence ceremonies in mosques until further notice to combat COVID-19.

Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church also decided to shut down all churches and halt all activities and ceremonies, except funerals limited to small numbers of family members, for two weeks as of 21 March.

Social awareness campaigns were launched as well to spread personal hygiene habits among the people.

The cabinet took several measures including the cancellation of large public gatherings and the halting of local football league for two weeks.

Suspending classes

The government closed schools and universities for two weeks starting 14 March to prevent the spread of the coronavirus as the number of cases rises. The suspension period is expected to extend for a longer period.

Students from in primary education (from grade 3 to grade 8) will not take second-semester exams, but they will instead prepare a research paper for every course and submit it online within two months.

High school students (grade 9-11) will take the final exams remotely. The results of the exam will be sent to the students online.

For high school students (grade 12), the final exams will be conducted as scheduled and inside schools, with full consideration for health precautions to ensure the safety of students.

Health authorities on alert

Al-Sisi directed to raise the degree of readiness in all hospitals in accordance with the standards of the World Health Organization, through cooperation and coordination between all concerned authorities in the state, and to launch continuous awareness campaigns for citizens of different groups, with the aim of providing guidance to the people regarding the coronavirus.

He also directed early examination of any suspected cases, as well as increase health control over ports of entry.

The Minister of Health announced that China provided Egypt with technical documents for the precautionary measures taken by the Chinese government to control the coronavirus, in addition to 1,000 detection kits for the virus free of charge.

As a state of panic prevailed in some areas, people rushed to pharmacies searching for sanitisers and disinfectants so prices of medical supplies soared. Therefore, the Egyptian Trade Ministry banned the export of surgical masks and disinfectants as well as medical alcohol for three months in a bid to avert a potential shortage in the local market.

Tourism paralysed

The Egyptian authorities took strict precautions for the tourism sector, imposing self-isolation on workers in hotels and resorts for 14 days. The government also closed all museums and archaeological sites.

Maged Fawzi, President of the Hotel Establishments Chamber, said workers in the field of tourism who contacted with foreigners will not leave their workplaces for 14 days as a precautionary measure against the coronavirus.

The last group of tourists in Luxor and Aswan left on Sunday, while others were allowed to complete their previously planned tourist programmes in other cities, provided that they will leave after the end of their tours.

The Egyptian authorities have ordered the suspension of flights to and from Egypt until the end of March to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

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Covid-19 economic impact: fate of Egypt’s irregular workers, underprivileged uncertain Mon, 23 Mar 2020 12:21:00 +0000 Food, cash assistance among labour experts’ recommendations  

The post Covid-19 economic impact: fate of Egypt’s irregular workers, underprivileged uncertain   appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

Concerns are increasing over the fate of millions of irregular workers and underprivileged people as they would be the most affected segment of society if novel coronavirus (Covid-19) widely spread in Egypt. There are 294 infections and 10 deaths in the country, according to the Health Ministry. 


Over the last week, the government has taken several measures to contain the spread of coronavirus, including suspending flights until 31 March, halting schools and universities, and closing cinemas and theatres. Meanwhile, it announced the closure of all restaurants, cafes, casinos, nightclubs, and shopping malls from 7 pm to 6 am daily until March 31. The decision excludes pharmacies, bakeries, and grocery stores. 

In a bid to contain the pandemic, the government urged citizens to stay home. Of course this is necessary and rational, but it is difficult for those who depend on daily and intermittent work.

It is not clear yet whether the current situation has affected the sectors that involve irregular workers, such as construction. Street vendors also face an uncertain fate, as well as uninsured workers who would be easily dismissed from jobs if their employers decide so. 


The suspension measures may last for longer periods if coronavirus spread in more governorates. If so, millions of vulnerable daily labourers will face unknown fate. 


About 32.5 % of Egyptians are living below the poverty line, up from 27.8% in 2015 and 16.7% in 2000, while 6.2% of Egyptians live in extreme poverty, according to the Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics 2019 report. The report set the poverty line at around $1.45 per day and the extreme poverty line at less than one dollar a day. 


Upper Egypt topped the list of the poorest areas in the county. Assuit came in the forefront with a poverty rate among its residents of 66.7%, followed by Sohag with 59.6%, Luxor 55.3%, Minya 54%, then Qena 41%.


Governments around the world are rushing to tackle the economic effects of Covid-19 outbreak. The US announced that it plans to send cheques directly to American citizens with an emergency financial aid. Spain announced measures worth €200bn to help companies and protect workers and other vulnerable groups. Germany, France, Canada, and others took similar measures. 


Egypt’s government also announced EGP 100bn emergency fund to be used to combat coronavirus and cushion impacts on the Egyptian economy. It has taken several decisions including delaying real estate tax payments for factories and tourist facilities for a 3-month period, reducing stamp duty for non-residents to 0.125%, and 0.05% for residents – halving capital gains tax for listed companies to 5%. 


Egypt’s Ministry of Manpower announced last week the provision of an exceptional aid worth EGP 500 for irregular workers who are already registered in the database of the ministry, estimated to be around 300,000 workers. 


There are different estimates of informal and irregular workers in Egypt. Mohamed Saafan, Minister of Manpower, said earlier this month that there are more than 10 million irregular workers in Egypt. 


MP and General Secretary of Egyptian Trade Union Federation Mohamed WahbAllah said in previous press statement that 14.5 million out of 29.5 million labourers in Egypt are uninsured.  


Mohamed Gad, an economic journalist and a researcher, told Daily News Egypt that there is a need to reach out to more vulnerable workers, saying that the number of registered workers in the database of the ministry of manpower is meagre compared to the number of irregular workers in Egypt.

Gad noted the most popular solution that governments tend to take to tackle the consequences of Covid-19 economic impact is providing certain cash assistance for all citizens.


However, the government could easily reach out to those who really need financial support in informal areas and poor villages, he said. 


“The government has to take rapid steps to protect underprivileged citizens. Poverty is a pandemic such as the coronavirus. If people could not find food and medicine, this is also a disaster,” Gad pointed out. 

He also recommended increasing the amount of the ration cards as well as cancelling or postponing bills for water, electricity, and gas for individuals in the upcoming months.  


In the meantime, Gad stressed that the most affected Segment, if the current situation continued, is irregular workers in the construction sector, which is not clear yet if it has been economically

affected or not.  


Alia El Mahdi, professor of economics at Cairo University, told DNE that there is need for concerted efforts to tackle the economic consequences of coronavirus spread. “The government can not deal with this alone. Citizens and NGOs have to take part in this process,” she said.  


El-Mahdi agreed with Gad that the government should increase the value of ration cards and provide food commodities at low prices to vulnerable groups in case of the closure of groceries.  


El-Mahdi noted that the focus has to be on the poorest areas that will suffer the most if the situation continues.  


“It is a hard time. [Coronaviruses] is a catastrophe that afflicted the whole world. There is a need for comprehensive cooperation between the government and NGOs.” 

On the conditions of irregular and informal workers in Egypt, Ragui Assaad, the visiting professor at the American University in Cairo and the professor at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota, said,The quantity and quality of jobs in the Egyptian economy have not improved despite some improvements in job security among some of the most vulnerable workers, whose employment is particularly sensitive to the business cycle.” 

Assaad wrote a column, titled “Egyptian economy still not creating good jobs”, which was published on by the Economic Research Forum. The column highlighted the results on employment conditions from released data in the 2018 wave of Egyptian Labour Market Panel Survey.


Assaad said, “Real wages have declined substantially as a result of the inflationary spike that followed the flotation and sharp devaluation of the Egyptian pound late 2016.”


“The share of informal wage employment outside fixed establishment has increased especially fast: from 12% of total employment in 2006 to 18% in 2012 to 23% in 2018,” the columnist added.


“This form of employment is most vulnerable to job insecurity, as measured by irregularity of employment and involuntary part-time work. It also has some of the highest rates of exposure to occupational hazards and injuries,” he continued. 



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Egypt keeps pursuing diplomatic route over GERD, although talks stalled Tue, 17 Mar 2020 11:57:12 +0000 Ethiopia prepares new draft agreement on GERD, Sudan to reportedly mediate talks

The post Egypt keeps pursuing diplomatic route over GERD, although talks stalled appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) on the Nile River meant to turn Addis Ababa into Africa’s biggest power exporter, but Egypt fears the dam, which is under construction near Ethiopia’s border with Sudan, would significantly diminish its water supply from the Nile, its major source of freshwater.

Although the trilateral negotiations on the GERD had stalled after Ethiopia rejected the US-brokered agreement, Egypt kept pursuing the diplomatic route to protect its water rights in the Nile River.

Tensions between Cairo and Addis Ababa escalated recently after Ethiopia did not attend the last US-sponsored meeting with Egypt and Sudan in Washington to sign the final agreement over the rules of filling and operating the GERD. The agreement, which was drafted by the US, was initiated by Egypt, but not signed by Sudan or Ethiopia.

Egyptian community in the US organised a demonstration in front of the White House on Sunday to support Egypt’s stance in the GERD talks. The Egyptian expats were demanding support and respect for Egypt’s rights to the Nile water. They also launched an online campaign for protecting Egypt’s Nile water rights supported by a report on the possible impacts of the GERD on Egypt.

During the past week, Egypt’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry toured seven Arab capitals, including five Gulf countries, Jordan, and Iraq, to discuss the developments of GERD talks.

The tour came a week after the Arab League adopted, during a meeting of Arab foreign ministers, a resolution submitted by Egypt to protect its rights to the Nile water and to castigate Ethiopia for failing to reach an agreement with Egypt and Sudan on the filling and operation of the GERD.

On 15 March, Shoukry said in a televised interview that negotiations between Egypt and Ethiopia have completely stalled, and that Addis Ababa spread fallacies in the media. He noted that these actions do not show intention for peaceful negotiations or cooperation.

Shoukry also met various African ambassadors to Egypt last week where they reviewed Egypt’s achievements during its presidency of the African Union (AU) in 2019, in addition to the latest developments on the GERD and Egypt’s efforts to reach a fair and balanced agreement for the three parties concerned.     

“Communications are suspended with Ethiopia, but we are in permanent contact with our Arab partners and brothers, as well as the United States of America, the sponsor of the negotiations, which put the agreement together,” Shoukry said.

Shoukry pointed out that his latest international trip came with the aim of delivering messages from Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi to other Arab leaders, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, and French President Emmanuel Macron on the path of GERD negotiations. There is an understanding among European Union countries on the danger of Ethiopian “intransigence” in negotiations and the repercussions it may bring that lead to an escalation of tension in the Horn of Africa, he added.

Shoukry indicated that he expects an Arab move to discourage the Ethiopian side from this “intransigence” and bring the negotiations out of a dead end, “as a vivid indication of solidarity, common interest and the historical relationship that binds us.” He stressed that “Egypt’s position is fair and its people deserve reaching results protecting their water interests.”

Meanwhile, a delegation from the Egyptian foreign ministry, led by Assistant Minister for Arab Affairs Yasser Othman, visited Algeria, Tunisia, and Mauritania and handed the leaders of the three countries official letters from President Al-Sisi on the GERD issue, according to a statement by the foreign ministry said on Sunday. The messages outlined Egypt’s position on the Ethiopian hydro-power project

Also on Sunday, Al-Sisi met Deputy Head of Sudan’s Sovereignty Council Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo in Cairo, where they both discussed developments in negotiations over Ethiopia’s disputed dam project, the Egyptian presidency said in a statement.

The Sudanese official said his country would mediate a deal on the escalating dispute between Ethiopia and Egypt, Washington Post reported.

Dagalo said his country would work to bridge the gap and “reach an agreement” in the years-long GERD dispute.

One day before this, President Al-Sisi and Head of the Sovereign Council of Sudan Abdel Fattah El-Burhan discussed bilateral relations over phone, the Egyptian presidency said.

Notably, Sudan had refused to endorse an Arab League resolution supporting Egypt in its dispute with Ethiopia over the GERD.

Last week, Al-Sisi met with army generals to ensure Egypt’s readiness to defend Egyptian national security. Also, Egypt’s Supreme Committee for Nile Water (SCNW) announced it’s in permanent session over GERD. 

While Egypt’s local and international momentum to defend its water rights within the GERD takes off, Ethiopia announced drafting its own proposal on how to resolve the standoff, which will soon be presented to Egypt and Sudan, said Ethiopia’s Foreign Minister Gedu Andargachew in an interview with The Associated Press on 13 March.

He also said that the three countries need to resolve their differences without outside pressure, as “Ethiopia refuses to be pressured by the US into signing a deal with Egypt and Sudan over the dam. We won’t subscribe to an agreement just because the US and the World Bank came forward with it. We need to take time and sort out sticking points.”

He claimed that his country has been pressured to quickly reach an agreement and sign a deal before resolving outstanding issues during talks held in Washington in recent months.

“Then US officials drafted and sent us an agreement, which we also opposed because the US only has an observer status,” he said. “We are of the opinion that an agreement reached under pressure is not in the best interest of any party in the talks.”

On 3 March, US President Donald Trump told his Egyptian counterpart Al-Sisi that Washington will keep up efforts for a deal among Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan over the dam Ethiopia is building on the Nile, Egypt’s presidency said.

In another interview with Al-Jazeera, Andargachew commented on several points regarding the issue, including the Arab League’s position.

“Ethiopia has strong ties with the Arabs as it was Islam’s gateway to Africa. These ties will not be harmed,” Andargachew said. However, the Arab League should not have issued such a resolution, especially that it is a regional institution, which should work on promoting peace among the member states and the Middle East, especially in light of the current crises facing many countries like Syria, Libya, and Yemen, he added.

Regarding Egyptian rejection for Ethiopian commencing its dam filling, he said that Ethiopia will store water in the rainy season in July and August to produce electricity and that the dam’s construction will be completed according to the fixed schedule. The Ethiopian minister added that Egypt bears the full responsibility of hampering negotiations and involving external parties in the negotiations.      

He also denied that the dam will harm downstream countries and that these claims were baseless and “just propaganda.”

Regarding the possibility of a war between Egypt and Ethiopia, Andargachew said that “No war will be declared because of the dam or the Nile.” The Nile has gifted the people of the three countries life and is considered the lifeblood of the Nile Basin countries.

Andargachew said that Ethiopia has already submitted the dam’s design to Egypt and Sudan, but there are media campaigns in Egypt that twist facts and mislead the public opinion in Egypt, convincing them that they will die of thirst. Egypt’s negligence of Ethiopia’s need to develop and combat poverty is “inhuman.”

Regarding pre-election pressures in Ethiopia, he said the dam is bigger than the elections and that it is a national issue. Political parties may differ in politics, but they all agree on the dam since it is a national project.

“No one will prevent us from filling the dam,” he stressed, criticising the role of the US Treasury as it turned from a supervisor into a mediator, he claimed. “The US supervision was the request of Egypt and Ethiopia in hopes of reaching a solution, but the role has turned from supervision into mediation. If the US wants to resume its role as just a supervisor, we welcome this.”

Last week, Egypt’s Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation Mohamed Abdel Ati said Cairo has denounced Ethiopia’s announcement to start filling the GERD in June in parallel with building the dam, especially since there are still technical issues in its construction that need further studies.

He added that 2bn cubic metres of water, in principle, will not help Ethiopia generate the amount of electricity required.

He noted that there are still too many unresolved technical issues, and noted that there are technical studies that have not been completed, such as environmental, social, and economic safety.

Egyptians can never give up on their water rights, he stressed.

Abdel Ati’s remarks came while addressing MPs on water issues in a plenary session last week.

He said, “Egypt’s share of the Nile water stands at 55bn cubic metres when population was just 20 million, and this share is the same even after the population reached 100 million. In 2050, Egypt’s population will reach 170 million, and this means that we will need at least an additional 7.5bn cubic metres of water to cover the population’s growing water needs.”

Abdel Ati said Egypt is the most efficient country in using the Nile water. “Egypt recycles 20bn cubic metres of the Nile water every year to cover its growing needs.”     

Moreover, Egypt is working on different fronts to rationalise water resources as the government will invest as much as EGP 100m in enhancing water resources in the next 10 years, and that, currently, the government is building dams, lakes, reservoirs, and desalination stations to save as much water as possible.

He noted that the US-drafted agreement was “fair and balanced” and it “achieved the interest of the three countries.”

The post Egypt keeps pursuing diplomatic route over GERD, although talks stalled appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

ILO operates 17 projects in Egypt with $24m total budget Sun, 15 Mar 2020 18:53:11 +0000 The ILO called Egypt to join the coalition steering committee, which currently only has a few countries. At the moment, it only has two representatives from each continent, due to Egyptian efforts in conducting studies, programmes and legislation that are meant to bridge the gap between men and women in payment, treatment, and many other social interactions, Hassan explained

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The International Labour Organization (ILO) has issued 190 business agreements during a number of  international labour conferences, pending country approval, said Senior Adviser to ILO director general for Africa and Arab States, Yasser Hassan on Monday.

“The Agreements will then be put into force and countries should report on the mechanism of implementing these agreements,” he said.

Hassan told Daily News Egypt that these agreements include non-discrimination agreements, which aims to equalise salaries between men and women. His remarks came during a workshop convened by the International Labour Organization to elaborate the Better Work programme’s main goals and vision, one day after launching it on Sunday.

He said “In Egypt, there is an international initiative, headed by the ILO and the Organization for Social and Education Development (OSED) to equal pay.”

The ILO called Egypt to join the coalition steering committee, which currently only has a few countries. At the moment, it only has two representatives from each continent, due to Egyptian efforts in conducting studies, programmes and legislation that are meant to bridge the gap between men and women in payment, treatment, and many other social interactions, Hassan explained.

Joining this coalition is a strong acknowledgment from the organisation for Egypt’s efforts, allowing Cairo to add to international forums. It also means that Egypt is one of the countries eligible to lead the international community, announcing that the organisation is working on 17 projects in Egypt with a total budget of $24m.

Commenting on one of the crises that have made world headlines, he said that the outbreak of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) is under discussion at the ILO, as its spread is alarmingly.

He said the negative economic repercussions caused by COVID-19 are beginning to show clear, and long-term repercussions, which require a strong evaluation of its dimensions.

“Certainly the spread of COVID-19 will have negative repercussions on the labour force, especially in Egypt’s case where the country is a labour exporter,” he said.

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Trade unions give workers strength when fall in confrontation with employers: ILO Sun, 15 Mar 2020 18:47:31 +0000 Many projects on ground support women to break through glass ceiling, bridge gender gap, says Karen Curtis

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The International Labour Organization (ILO) launched on Sunday its initiative “Better Work” in Egypt to improve working conditions, with the participation of Ministry of International Cooperation.

Better Work – a joint programme of the ILO and the International Finance Corporation, a member of the World Bank Group – is part of a wider programme called “Strengthening labour relations and promoting inclusive social dialogue for development”.

The programme’s specific contribution is to support workers and enterprises in the textile and readymade garments sector to improve labour relations and compliance with national laws and international core labour standards, including compensation, contracts, occupational safety, healthcare, and working hours. These elements should advance working conditions and, at the same time, enhance factories’ productivity and profitability.

Daily News Egypt interviewed ILO’s Chief of Freedom of Association Branch Karen Curtis to talk about the new programme in Egypt, ILO’s efforts to reduce gender inequality in labour market, and how can trade unions benefit workers.

How can trade unions support workers?

There was a single trade union in the country what we call it monopoly. It was sort of controlled by the government, and there was no room for establishing another union. Sometimes it is good to be close to the government because you may get more support to workers but it also important to have this possibility for the workers to organise their unions in case that they have another way of thinking or another view. This was not possible before in Egypt because it was illegal, but over the last decade, the government began to make attempts to change the law.

In 2011, unions could be formed without a legal framework, so it was yet sufficient.

But now the law has been changed, there was no monopoly anymore and the new framework allowed any group of workers to form a legal unit to act as a representative for them in all matters. It is a big shift from a long history. For these associations to exercise their activities here, they need to be recognised and that is what we are addressing in this project, and there are already numbers of requests to be registered under the new law.

The law now needs to get into the practical process. This would require different steps and approvals, so we want to help streamline this process so it should take only 30 days for any union to be registered. We want to assist the government to carry out this process in a proper way, but also unions to know what exactly needs to be provided.

How trade unions can affect ordinary workers, specifically women?

The idea of having a trade union and a collective presentation is to have greater force when you dialogue with your employer. Women who are not unionised and in one-to-one relationship, they will be in a vulnerable situation because they do not have that collective force that ensure if the employer does not speak to us maybe we are going to strike. If they were represented by voices that really do not represent them then there is another problem because they are disconnected, as if someone speak for them but he is not actually identifying their needs. It is really needed to represent the people who are doing the work, and what is important is that the workers themselves can choose who can represent them.

Do you have any programmes to support working women?

Yes, there are huge programmes to support them. We have women empowerment seminars getting the women to break through the glass ceiling, and bridge the gender gap. There are many projects on the ground in this regard.

What are the opportunities you see in Egypt as a developing market?

It becomes clear that when you are in exporting country, consumers have some expectations. If they feel there might be some sort of violation of fundamental principles and work rights, they might refrain from buying your products so there is a need to show you are credible. That said, it is important for Egypt as exporting country to show that it plays on the same rules as everyone else. It is a buyer-supplier relationship. For trade agreements, there are many deals that require labour standards.

How long would be the Better Work programme in Egypt? Who is the main beneficiary from it?

The programme will last for four years. Ultimately, we hope that it would benefit all the workers in the Egyptian labour force, estimated at 32 million workers, but we will not seek after each one of them, but we would offer training.

Do you think international brands should look at Egypt as a potential market?

My colleagues really feel there is potential over there to accept the rules of the game, where employees can be really engaged, and that is the first step to let the buyer actually think that this country that has a serious engagement with its workers.

How could ILO improve Egyptian workers’ conditions in the recent years?

Well, I think the first impact is the change of the law. The new law institutionalised trade unions and ended government involvement. That was a big step in Egypt.

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Iran COVID-19 crisis: 4,747 cases confirmed, amid fears over wide-scale spread Sun, 08 Mar 2020 09:00:19 +0000 WHO says doctors have concerns they do not necessarily have enough equipment, supplies, ventilators, respirators, oxygen

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Iran is working hard to combat the rapid outbreak of the novel coronavirus disease (Covid-19), as the global number of confirmed cases has surpassed 100,000 on Friday. The new virus, which has spread to around 80 countries has claimed 3,110 deaths since its emergence in China.

Iran health ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur announced on Friday that the number of cases recorded in the country rose by 1,234 in just few days, bringing the total number to 4,747.

About 124 cases have resulted in death in Iran, the health ministry announced Friday. The deaths included several Iranian government officials, MPs, and politicians.

A newly elected female MP named Fatemeh Rahbar died from Covid-19 on Friday, Iran’s Tasnim News Agency reported. Earlier, Hossein Sheikholeslam, an adviser to Iran’s foreign minister also died from the Covid-19. Sheikholeslam served as the former ambassador of Iran to Syria between 1998 and 2003.

Last week, Mohammad Mirmohammadi, 72, a member of Iran Expediency Council also died from Covid-19. The deputy health minister Iraj Harirchi tested positive with the disease. 

Iran now comes behind China and South Korea in terms of the disease’s spread, which is believed to have spread all across the Islamic Republic.

Handling the outbreak, Iran announced last week to extend its closure of schools and universities for additional two weeks. The country has also limited travel between major cities and urged citizens to reduce their use of paper banknotes.

This comes at a crux of severe political tensions between the population and the government, and despite the government’s declaration of taking the necessary steps to take care of its citizens, a lack of confidence has been further widening amid the recent epidemic.

Now, the Iranian government came under criticism over its dealing of the crisis as well as its lack of transparency over the confirmed number of Covid-19 cases and deaths.

To combat the spread of the disease in crowded jails, Iran also temporarily released 54,000 inmates. It cancelled Friday prayers in the capital Tehran and 22 other provinces.

Covid-19 cases with a travel history to Iran have also been reported in Afghanistan, Canada, Lebanon, Pakistan, Kuwait, Bahrain, Iraq, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, the WHO said.

Another challenge Iran currently faces regarding the spread of the virus is the shrines that are always crowded with Shia visitors. Despite warning against touching the shrines, videos have been circulating social media recently showing some people touching the doors and burial mound inside Fatima Masumeh’s Shrine in Qom.

This has raised many concerns and inquiries as to why the government has not halted travel to these sites, if its so concerned over the virus’s spread.

Last week, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the enemies of Iran are using the spread of Covid-19 against the Iranian people, accusing them of releasing “false statics and statements,” over the real situation.

Rouhani added that if the US is honest about its intention in helping Tehran in dealing with the outbreak, it has to “at least lift its ban on medicine.”

Earlier, the United States expressed its concern that Iran might not announce the full and accurate details of the situation on the ground, urging Tehran to cooperate completely and transparently with international organisations.

The US said that it will exclude food, medicine, and medical devices from its economic sanctions on Iran, offering to help the Iranian people in their crisis.

On the other hand, the WHO sent a team of experts to Iran “to work with health authorities and other stakeholders to review ongoing readiness and response efforts, visit designated health facilities, laboratories and points of entry, and provide technical guidance.

“Doctors and nurses have concerns that they do not necessarily have enough equipment, supplies, ventilators, respirators, oxygen,” the Executive director of WHO Health Emergencies Programme Michael Ryan said on Wednesday.

“It is not an easy situation,” he said, adding that “the disease is now well-established.” 

Fears have been on the rise over the scale of outbreak in Iran, as well as in Italy and South Korea, with the rapid increase of detected cases.

Several countries including the UAE, US, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia temporarily suspend the travel of its citizens to countries that have cases of coronavirus, including Iran, to prevent the transition of the virus.

Saudi Arabia also decided to suspend Umrah pilgrimage temporarily for foreigners, residents, and Saudi citizens over fears of the spread of Covid-19 to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina.

Earlier, Saudi Arabia announced its first confirmed case of coronavirus in a Saudi national returning from Iran via Bahrain.

About 2.5 million pilgrims visited Saudi Arabia for Hajj last year, according to the kingdom’s General Authority for Statistics. Thousands of Iranian pilgrims visit the holy two cities every year.

Serious threat to Iranians’ right to health

The US, over the years, has imposed a wide range of economic sanctions to punish Tehran.

In 2016, international sanctions were lifted after the US and Iran signed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action over Iran’s nuclear programme. However, the US pulled out from the agreement in November 2018, redoubling tougher sanctions on Iran. Rights groups say that the price of these sanctions is being paid by the Iranian people. 

“Though the US government has built exemptions for humanitarian imports into its sanction regime, broad US sanctions against Iranian banks, coupled with aggressive rhetoric from US officials, have drastically constrained Iran’s ability to finance such humanitarian imports,” the Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in an October 2019 report.

“The consequences of redoubled US sanctions, whether intentional or not, pose a serious threat to Iranians’ right to health and access to essential medicines” the HRW added.

The HRW found that “current economic sanctions, despite the humanitarian exemptions, are causing unnecessary suffering to Iranian citizens afflicted with a range of diseases and medical conditions.”

“Some of the worst-affected are Iranians with rare diseases and/or conditions that require specialised treatment who are unable to acquire previously available medicines or supplies. This includes people with leukaemia, epidermolysis bullosa, or epilepsy, and individuals with chronic eye injuries from exposure to chemical weapons during the Iran-Iraq war,” the HRW said.

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Tensions rise again between Egypt, Ethiopia over GERD after US-sponsored negotiations Tue, 03 Mar 2020 14:53:34 +0000 Egypt determined to use all available, possible means to take care of interest, people, water rights, says Sameh Shoukry

The post Tensions rise again between Egypt, Ethiopia over GERD after US-sponsored negotiations appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

A new heated war of words over the filling and operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) sprung up between Egypt and Ethiopia, putting the pace of negotiations at risk.    

Late Sunday, Egypt’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry said Ethiopia’s statement on the GERD’s recent meetings in the US included several fallacies, and that there was a desire to hinder the final agreement’s signing by the Ethiopian side.

“This issue is an existential one, and it will not be tolerated, no one is allowed to take unilateral measures regarding transboundary rivers,” he said, adding the situation requires to show the true image to citizens.

He noted that Ethiopia’s announcement to not participate in the last round of negotiations in Washington came in short notice, and apologised on 25 February.  

In a televised phone call, the minister also said that the last round of negotiations was to format minor points and the technical rules had been negotiated already over the past four months, and were approved by the Ethiopian side.

Shoukry also said that Ethiopia participated in many rounds and adopted many of the presented material and specified formulations on the dam negotiations, under US mediation.

He pointed out that it was necessary to stress the importance of commitment  to the Declaration of Principles in 2015, under the rules of international law. 

“The Ethiopian side continues on their stance, the matter will remain pending, after what Addis Ababa announced about their intention in filling the portal during the constructional stages, which is considered contrary to the Declaration of Principles Agreement,” said the minister.

Egypt is determined to use all available and possible means to take care of national its interest, people, and water rights, Shoukry said. 

The minister’s remarks came following a statement by the Foreign Ministry on Sunday which rejected Ethiopia’s stand, describing it as full of fallacies. The ministry said that Ethiopia is deliberately hindering negotiations, and rejects the dams filling at the same time of its construction.

In a harsh tone, Ethiopia announced on Saturday in a statement that it would commence the dam’s filling in parallel with its construction process by right of ownership, in response to the US treasury’s call to delay final testing and filling until an agreement is made.

Ethiopia further elaborated that it does not accept the US characterisation of the Guidelines and Rules of the First Filing and Annual Operation of the GERD, and the text of the draft agreement reportedly initiated by Egypt was not the outcome of a tripartite negotiation.

This came after Ethiopia’s absence in the last meeting in the US on 27 and 28 February to sign the draft of the final agreement prepared by the US after holding several rounds of talks between three countries in attendance of the World Bank during recent months. 

In November, Washington hosted negotiations between the three Nile Basin countries in the presence of the World Bank and the US Treasury, which resulted in the milestone final agreement draft. In 2019, Egypt had sought third party mediation due to reaching a deadlock in negotiation with Ethiopia that took place for almost nine years. 

The absence of Ethiopia was described as rejection of the final agreement and presence of the US in negotiations, especially since Ethiopian citizens have been demonstrating during the past day against the final agreement and the presence of the US. 

Egyptian experts on social media believe that the recent stances by Ethiopia is “expected” and “not new,” and what is happening is another attempt in procrastination and prevarication to escape from any entitlement against its interest, and is clear that Ethiopia will not sign any agreement before the dam’s construction is completed. Others already believe that the state is under pressure due to public rejections for the final agreement and with elections coming up in Ethiopia, the government will try its best to not stir discontent.

Ethiopian social media users have been circulating the hashtag “#it’smydam” where they expressed their full support of their country’s decision to start the filling of the dam, believing that the US is pushing negations in Egypt’s favour, and the final agreement is not fully serving their country’s interests. 

Also, critics of the negotiations mentioned that US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the person, who hosted the negotiations participated in bilateral meetings on Thursday and Friday with Sudanese and Egyptian foreign affairs and water resource ministers. Meanwhile, Meanwhile, out of three Nile basin countries, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo only visited Ethiopia in mid-February during an African tour.

Rakha Ahmed Hassan, former Egyptian Assistant Foreign Minister, said “Ethiopia is delaying the process of signing any agreement until the Ethiopian elections end next August, and this is a belief that I had from the beginning due to the clear delay by the Ethiopian side from the beginning.”

Hassan added “We are still counting on the US’s role to convince Ethiopia that there is no solution, but to respond to Egyptian demands, because Egypt did not ask for something unjust from Ethiopia or caused harm. We are not against the development and construction of the dam, all we want is that the dam does not cause damage to our country, and the US announces every day that they are trying to persuade Ethiopia.”

“From the beginning, the Ethiopian statements were stretched, and at the end of each round of negotiations, they just announced they were continuing to negotiate, without setting a final date for those negotiations,” the assistant minister said, commenting on the stance of the Ethiopian side since the beginning of negotiations. 

Hassan questioned, ”Will Ethiopia stall to reach any solutions and fill the dam in next June, and wait for elections in August, suggesting that this is what Egypt is currently discussing with the US side. The monsoon rains start late in May, and this is the date that the Ethiopians set it to fill the dam.”


“Washington has a significant role and influence on Ethiopia, and it can, if it wanted to, pressure it, but Pompeo, during his visit to Ethiopia said, “we will not exert pressure on any of the parties but rather we will negotiate to reach an agreement that will achieve the interests of the parties as much as possible”, he concluded.

Ahmed Al-Mufti, a former Sudanese member of the Nile Basin Countries Negotiating Committee, suggested that Mnuchin’s visit to Ethiopia was to pressure Ethiopia into accepting the agreement, urging that this agreement was not Egyptian, Sudanese, or Ethiopian, but rather an American agreement, and when Egypt signed it first and Ethiopia did not, Pompeo went to Addis Ababa to pressure them to sign.

Mufti is a legal adviser and has been a member of the Sudanese delegation in the Nile water negotiations since 1994, but left the file in 2011 due to the conditions that Ethiopia set when the negotiations started.

He also said “Addis Ababa will not sign any agreement now, and from the beginning it is said that that water is its right, and when the US pressured it to sign the agreement, it did not attend the negotiation process, and Pompeo returned without obtaining its approval.

“The only case in which Ethiopia will sign any agreement will be after the completion and filling of the dam’s first filling, and putting everyone before the de facto situation,” he said, adding that Ethiopia said before the United Nations General Assembly in 1994, that the waters of the Blue Nile are a right that is unique to them and not justification. 

Regarding water shares, he said that Ethiopia had proposed during previous negotiations to pump 31bn cubic metres of water from the dam distributed among the three countries, while Egypt proposed 40bn cubic metres, and when Washington came as a mediator, it offered to pump 37 bn cubic metres, while providing incentives to Ethiopia, if it accepts the offer.

“But Ethiopia’s attitude changed suddenly, revealing that it had hidden intentions other than producing electricity, which is to maintain the share of water that the dam will hold, for the purposes of the first filling, in a sustainable manner,” he said.

The Mufti explained that even if Ethiopia accepts the flow of 37bn cubic metres of water, the shares of Sudan and Egypt will increase, but it will never reach the shares of the 1959 agreement for the waters of the Nile.

Egypt and Ethiopia, which both have populations of about 100 million and are the fastest-growing economies in their respective regions, have said the future of the Nile is a matter of national security. The dam is built on the Blue Nile, the main tributary of the world’s longest river, and will generate about 6,000 megawatts once completed. The foreign-exchange-starved horn-of-Africa nation plans to export electricity to neighbouring states.

The main differences revolve around the operation and filling of the dam and the water shares allocated to each country after its reservation in the dam.

Ethiopia continues construction of the dam, in accordance with a principles agreement signed by the three countries in 2015, and experts describe it as the “biggest mistake” committed by Egypt and Sudan.

Egypt believes that the dam will adversely affect its share of water and its national security. The position of Sudan remained more like a mediator than a stakeholder, according to a number of experts.

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Glimpses of Mubarak’s life in presidency, after 2011 ouster Sun, 01 Mar 2020 08:00:36 +0000 Several events shape late president’s 30-year rule

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Last week, Egypt bid farewell to its longest-serving president Hosni Mubarak who passed away at the age 91. Mubarak ruled for 30 years and was ousted by the Arab Spring’s 25 January 2011 revolution. There are several incidents that shaped this period and the nine years that followed his ouster.

Mubarak survived an assassination attempt by Islamist militants against former president Anwar Sadat in October 1981, sitting beside him during the 1973 War celebrations. Later, he took the office after a referendum.

A military funeral was held for Mubarak last Wednesday, despite being convicted along with his two sons, Alaa and Gamal, over charges of seizing public funds by embezzling money specified for the presidential palace.

1986: Central Security Forces rebellion

Mubarak’s first worst domestic crisis was on 25 February in 1986 when about 17,000 Central Security Forces conscripts began a rebellion over their conditions and following “a rumour” that the term of service for their military service would be extended from three to four years.

Conscripts from two camps in Giza stormed and burned various buildings and shops, including the Jollie Ville Hotel, the Haram police station, the Holiday Inn, the Sphinx Hotel, and the Mena House Hotel. The soldiers also burnt hotels, nightclubs, and restaurants.

An emergency state was declared, and a curfew was imposed in Cairo, Giza, and Al Qalyubia governorates. The armed forces were deployed to the streets and trapped the rebel soldiers, and the rioting was quickly contained.

At this time, Mubarak’s government said that about 107 people were killed, while the number might be more. A large number of soldiers were also arrested.

Following the events, Mubarak showed up in a live state television speech and said, “a few perverts committed violence, riot, and burning, which is considered treacherous stab to the path of (Egyptian) people.”

Mubarak said some camps in Giza, Cairo, Al Qalyubia, Ismalia, Assuit, and Sohag witnessed similar riots which resulted in destroying buses, cars, and hotels, as well as breaking into Tora prison and free some inmates.

1989: Recovery of occupied Taba

In March 1989, Taba, the last pocket of the Sinai Peninsula, which was occupied by Israel in 1967 War, was recovered. In 1986, Egypt resorted to international arbitration and the judges ruled in Egypt’s favour.

1989: Return to Arab League 

Under Mubarak’s rule, Egypt returned to the Arab League after its membership was frozen due to the signing of the Camp David Accords in 1978.

Islamic extremism in the 1990s

One of the main challenges that Mubarak’s regime faced was Islamist extremism that increased in the 1990s. The worst terrorist attack was in 1997 in Luxor, in which 62 tourists were killed at Egypt’s Deir el-Bahri archaeological site.

Six militants from Al-Jama’a Al-Islamiyya, security forces said, went down on the temple armed with automatic machine guns and knives. The interior minister at that time Hassan Al Alfi, was dismissed by Mubarak.

Even in the 2000s, terrorist attacks on locals and tourists continued. In 2004, a serious of bomb attack was carried on tourists in the Sinai Peninsula, killing 34 people and injured 171 others. A year later, a series of bombs planted in the resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh killed 88 people and injured 150.

1991: Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait

Mubarak supported Kuwait in the Arab Gulf War in 1991. He helped organising the coalition of Arab armies with the support of the United States to kick off Iraqi President Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait.

Mubarak sent military support for Kuwait, and the Egyptian forces were among the first troops which took part in the war. Due to Egypt’s support, the United States and its allies had forgiven half the $20.2bn of Egyptian loans.

1995: assassination attempt in Ethiopia

In 1995, Mubarak survived an assassination attempt when gunmen ambushed his motorcade upon his arrival in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

2005: constitution amendments

In 2005, Mubarak asked the parliament to amend Article 76 of Egypt’s Constitution to open the doors for registered parties to nominate a candidate in the presidential election.

In 2005, he easily won Egypt’s first multi-candidate presidential election, securing a fifth consecutive term, with more than 88% of the vote. However, opposition candidates and independent monitors condemn “widespread irregularities” at the polls. Before that, he was re-elected in unopposed referendums in 1987, 1993, and 1999. 

2005: protests against Gamal Mubarak succession plans

In 2005, a demonstration was organised by anti-government movement called Kefaya (Enough) against potential succession plans of Gamal Mubarak.

Gamal was number two in Egypt’s ruling National Democratic Party (NDP), and he is believed to be the de facto ruler of Egypt at the time.

2010: ruling party wins parliamentary majority

The NDP won 420 out of 508 seats in the parliament in 2010. Human rights and opposition accused the regime of forging the vote and intimidating of voters. But the government said the vote was fair. 

2011: “People want to topple the regime”

Mubarak was ousted in 11 February 2011 after 18-day of nationwide protests against his rule in what was known as the Arab Spring uprisings. The Egyptians protested against the spread of poverty, unemployment, corruption, torture, and repression.

Despite promising not to contest the forthcoming presidential election, protesters insisted on their demands, forcing him to step down. 

2011: Mubarak goes to court

Mubarak and his sons Alaa and Gamal were arrested in April 2011 under the pressure of continuing protests to bring them to justice over charges of corruption and the killing of protesters.

Mubarak was jailed for years and was sentenced to life in prison over charges of complicity in the killing of hundreds of protesters during the 25 January revolution.

2017: Acquittal

In March 2017, he was cleared from the conviction of ordering the killing of at least 846 people were killed and more than 6,000 injured during the popular uprising.

2015: Convicted in the presidential palace case

Mubarak and his two sons were convicted in May 2015 on charges of seizing public funds by embezzling money specified for the presidential palace.

The court also fined them EGP 125m, the amount of money seized by the defendants by forging the presidential budget in official statements. They were also forced to pay EGP 21m back to the state.

2020: military funeral and old regime figures attend

A military funeral was held for Mubarak with the presence of President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, top military officials, ministers, as well as Mubarak-era figures such as Ahmed Ezz, Zakaria Azmi, and Hisham Talaat Moustafa. Soldiers congregated at the mosque, where cannons stood ready for a 21-gun salute to bid farewell to Mubarak.

Well-Known actresses and actors, as well as public figures, also attended. Surprisingly, Egypt’s former defence minister Mohamed Hussein Tantawy missed the funeral.

Dozens of Mubarak’s supporters were seen outside the fence of the mosque, holding posters of his photo with words written “goodbye president,” and waving to the jet that carried his body.

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Sudan celebrates Nile Day under theme of ‘joint investments on the river’ Thu, 27 Feb 2020 13:15:23 +0000 Khartoum hosts annual event for second time

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In Sudan, dozens of youth formed three groups wearing three different colour outfits, blue, white, and yellow. The blue and white groups went in intersection lines and the yellow one met them in the middle, representing the convergence of White and Blue Nile Rivers in Sudan to form the Nile flow to Egypt.  The show meant to celebrate the 14th Nile Day.

The Nile Day commemorates the establishment of the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI), and is celebrated annually on 22 February across the Nile Basin countries. It marks a major milestone in international relations and represents the first real cooperation between the NBI members. These countries are now able to come together and collectively take care and share the waters of the Nile, bringing about the equitable and shared enjoyment for generations to come.

This year’s celebration came under the theme of “Joint Investments on the Nile for Regional Transformation”. This is the second time Sudan hosted this event, the first was in 2015. The first Nile Day celebration was in 2007 in Kigali, Rwanda.

The Nile Day was organised in partnership between the Sudanese Youth Parliament for Water (SYPW) and Environment Conservation Society.

The celebration witnessed participants from all the 10 NBI member countries: Burundi, DR Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda.

The marches started from the Sudan National Museum and Corinthia Hotel Khartoum on the meeting point of the Blue Nile and White Nile to the Friendship Hall where the main celebration was held. The walk took around 10 minutes, accompanied with a military band and African music bands. Some children joined the marches holding balloons.

African dancers performed on folk music in the presence of Nile Basin countries’ ministers of water and foreign affairs as well as ambassadors.

The celebration included official speeches, open-air and indoor arts and sports events, besides the main conference.

Sudan’s Water and Irrigation Minister Yasir Abbas delivered the opening speech. He said his ministry counted on the conference outputs in planning the future of drinking water and irrigation projects in the Nile Basin.

“The water sector had suffered quite a lot under the former regime and it is now our responsibility to put a national water plan in collaboration with our partners in the water sector,” said Abbas.

Moreover, Sudan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Asma Mohamad Abdalla said, “The event’s theme ‘Joint Investments on the Nile for Regional Transformation’ is one of the key elements that needs to be in place in order to achieve sustainable development goal no. 6 on clean water and sanitation.”

She added that without joint planning and investment, Nile Basin countries will miss out on opportunities of development, which benefit the Nile Basin people. She called upon development partners and the private sector to support the NBI in its efforts to realise regional investments.

Executive Director of NBI Secretariat Seifeldin Hamad Abdalla said the key objective of the event is to highlight some of the achievements made in terms of investment, with emphasising the need to accelerate implementation of the NBI-prepared investment projects, which are worth more than $6.5bn. These projects would support NBI member states in their quest to meet the growing demand for water, food, and energy.

Aside from celebrating the achievements of NBI, the Nile Day provides an opportunity for various stakeholders to celebrate the region’s cultures, arts, and traditional cuisines.

Meanwhile, UNICEF Representative Abdullah Fadl urged for “strong and effective cooperation between the partners and the Irrigation Ministry.” He also voiced the UNICEF’s “complete support to the Conference outputs.”

Deputy Director of the Water Resources Technical Organ in Sudan Hassan Abulbashar appreciated the participation of the NBI representatives in Sudan’s celebrations of the Nile Day.

He noted that 84 investment projects were launched by the initiative. They seek to boost food security, energy and water resources at an estimated total cost of $6.5bn. “The new Sudan is open towards regional cooperation and looks forward to gaining from these projects,” he added.

Abulbashar said some scientific means were also devised within the initiative. These means will be promoted in a manner that helps take decisions on the utilisation of common water resources.

The Nile Basin is one of the Globe’s strategic areas. It overlooks important waterways: the Mediterranean, the Suez Canal, the Red Sea, and the Indian Ocean. In addition, the Basin overlooks the banks of the River’s many tributaries and mainstreams. This permits the creation of hydroelectric and industrial projects. The area is also rich in underground and surface waters.

In addition, the region receives a lot of rainfall, which in addition, can help exploit vast expanses of fertile land for agriculture. The area is also endowed with a lot of livestock and fish resources.

However, the Nile Basin countries are facing spates of droughts and environment hazards that dictate upon them the need to work together and maintain the existing water agreements and advance them further.

They are also required to control pollution on the river banks to prevent waterborne diseases.

The Nile Day was organised in partnership with Sudanese Youth Water Parliament and Sudanese Environment Conservation Society.

Speaking about the role of youth, Mohamed Awad, SYPW representative, told Daily News Egypt that “today is an important event, and our presence is important because we are the future. Youth should be involved in all events related to water because one day we will be the decision makers.”

Regarding the water situation in Sudan, Awad said the future of water in Sudan is not good or bad, the situation is neutral, and the only concern is how this topic will be managed in the future.

“We as parliament want to have a role in all what is happening regarding water affairs in the country,’ he said noting that the situation of the water parliament is better now than before the Sudanese revolution as they suffered to obtain a license, but now the procedure is going on to be official.

“We have committees across the country. We have launched several projects since 2017, those related to awareness of the importance of water and how people can rationalise consumption. We also have educational projects, and other more about investigation as we go to visit some cities in Sudan to conduct surveys on water and health condition in surrounding areas, Awad added.

Elham Ahmed, SYPW executive manager, said: “We are members of the organising committee,” this is the first time, we were able to attend the Nile Day as an organiser, and this happened thanks to the decision of the minister of water and irrigation.

“We organised an expo where youth presented their handmade works inspired by African culture. The ceremony organisation was voluntary,” she added.

On the sidelines of the Nile Day, the NBI organised media training for journalists from Egypt, Ethiopia, Sudan, and South Sudan from 18 to 21 February on the security and management of dams.

About NBI

The NBI was established on 22 February 1999 by ministers of water affairs in the Nile Basin countries. The NBI is the only basin-wide institution mandated to facilitate the cooperative development and management of the shared Nile Basin water resources on behalf of the 10-member states, for win-win benefits and to promote regional peace and security.

The setup of NBI is comprised of the NBI Secretariat based in Entebbe, Uganda, and two Subsidiary Action Programmes Offices leveraging unique sub-basin potentials and mitigating unique sub-basin risks. There are also the Eastern Nile Technical Regional Office based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for the Eastern Nile sub-basin and the Nile Equatorial Lakes Subsidiary Action Programme Coordination Unit based in Kigali, Rwanda for the Nile Equatorial Lakes sub-basin.

The NBI’s programmes and projects are guided by its 10-Year Strategy (2017 – 2027), which outlines six goals, namely, water security, energy security, food security, environmental sustainability, climate change adaptation, and strengthening transboundary water governance.

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Mahraganat: controversy over barring Egyptian street popular music Sun, 23 Feb 2020 08:00:21 +0000 "I will drink alcohol and smoke hashish,” is the lyrics of Mahragan Bent El Geran that outraged Musicians’ Syndicate 

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The Egyptian Musicians’ Syndicate banned all the singers of Mahraganat – Egyptian street pop music literally meaning festivals – which raised controversy over the concept of barring itself and the right of freedom of artistic and literary creation.

Hany Shaker, the syndicate’s head and veteran singer, issued on 16 February a blacklist of Mahraganat singers, including Hassan Shakosh, Hamo Bika, Oka, and Ortega, as well as actor Mohamed Ramadan who often performs concerts.

Shaker called on all tourist facilities, ships, coffee shops, and nightclubs to not deal with the banned singers, adding that any establishment that violates the syndicate’s decree “will face legal procedures.”

However, the syndicate’s decision has not been welcomed widely. Adel Al-Masry, head of the Chamber of Tourism Establishments, said the decree is an “unacceptable interference.” Last week, he stressed that the decision is a “transgression on the authority concerned with the supervision of touristic activity, which is the Ministry of Tourism and its affiliated sectors.”

The syndicate said Mahraganat lyrics have corrupted society and is “loaded with sexual innuendo and offensive language.”

The decision followed a concert held at the International Cairo Stadium on Valentine’s Day this year in which Hassan Shakosh performed his latest hit Mahragan Bent El Geran (The girl next door).

“I will drink alcohol and smoke hashish” was the lyrics that enraged the syndicate and many Egyptians who reacted negatively on social media.

Mahraganat is a genre of “electro-shaabi” and became very popular among all social classes and now performed at weddings, cafes, and nightclubs. It burgeoned from impoverished Cairo neighbourhoods and has boomed in the last nine years. Mahraganat is also performed in films and television series.

There have been several attempts to document Mahraganat in the last few years, including “Underground/On the Surface,” a documentary by Salma El Tarzi that explores the local subculture and its effect on its listeners.

The Musicians’ Syndicate will send an official letter to online streaming giants YouTube and SoundCloud to takedown Mahraganat songs from their websites, according to syndicate spokesperson Tarek Mortada.

Bent El Geran had more than 120m views on YouTube until Saturday and was the second most played song on SoundCloud.

Following the outrage over his latest concert, Shakosh issued a video on Facebook and urged people to forgive him.

Parliamentary spokesperson Salah Hassaballah said the parliament “supports Hany Shaker’s decision to ban Mahraganat.”

Hany Shaker

“Some [people] try to falsify the awareness of the Egyptian people and youth through so-called art. It is a war!” Hassaballah said in televised statements on Ala Masoulity TV show last week.

“It has no right”  


Among the reactions over Mahraganat banning was a comment from Egyptian singer Mariam Saleh who also performs alternative pop music genre. Saleh is not a Mahraganat singer, but she was banned from singing last year according to her Facebook post last Thursday.

Saleh said Hany Shaker once listened to her singing at a concert in August 2019, and she immediately received a letter barring her from singing at any concert without any given reason. The syndicate has yet to release an official statement over Saleh or her banning.

Mahmoud Othman, a lawyer at the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE), told Daily News Egypt that the syndicates of artists, musicians, and cinema have no right to ban any artist from doing his job.

Othman said the role of the three syndicates, according to the law No 35 of 1978, is to take care of the interests of the artists and not ban them from doing their job, or compromise their freedom of artistic and literary creation guaranteed according to article No 67 of the Egyptian Constitution.

The article stipulates that “the state shall undertake to promote art and literature, sponsor creators and protect their creations, and provide the necessary means of encouragement to achieve this end.”

“No lawsuits may be initiated or filed to suspend or confiscate any artistic, literary, or intellectual work, or against their creators except through the public prosecution,” it added.

Meanwhile, the article noted that “no punishments of custodial sanction may be imposed for crimes committed because of the public nature of the artistic, literal, or intellectual product. The law shall specify the penalties for crimes related to the incitement of violence, discrimination between citizens, or impugning the honour of individuals.”

“The situation is depressing,” Othman said, adding that the recent ban resulted in a draft law that aims to amend the Penal Code and to amend the punishment for “outrage of modesty” to be the mandatory imprisonment of year to three years.

We should improve public taste


On social media, the issue was trending for several days. People divided into two groups, the first defended Shaker’s position, saying that such music “is spoiling the public taste and corrupting society.” This group disagrees with involving drugs, alcohol, and sexual insinuations in songs which they fear would affect the morals of their children.

Despite being played almost everywhere in Egypt, some people mainly refused the content presented in Mahraganat lyrics.

On the other hand, some believe that Mahraganat is a product of the changes the Egyptian society went through over the past nine years and reflects a segment of society that has the right to find a way to express itself.

“I am not a fan of Mahraganat, but I am not also against it. I do not believe that this music spoils the public taste or applauds decadence. It is a reflection of an existing culture,” Ahmed Rashad, a 29-year-old content writer told Daily News Egypt.

“If we do not like Mahraganat and its lyrics, we should improve the public taste instead of banning such music,” he added.

Ahmed Tarek, a 31-year-old physician who has an interest in rock, blues, jazz, and classical music genres, said: “banning any kind of art is a door to the authority to ban anything it wants.”

“This is a kind of guardianship and patriarchy,” Tarek told DNE. He added that the role of the Musicians’ Syndicate is not to exclude a singer, but to defend them and their freedom of expression.

Tarek pointed out that Mahraganat music is an art that flourished in Egyptian working class neighbourhoods and reflects its people. “Most who perform Mahraganat are ordinary young people, and this is the reason why their lyrics are honest and brave. Mahraganat is their way to deal with a society that ignores them.”

The post Mahraganat: controversy over barring Egyptian street popular music   appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

Egypt concludes rotational chair of AU with good records Wed, 12 Feb 2020 10:00:19 +0000 Political pundits believe Egypt restores its position in Africa, enhances sustainable development 

The post Egypt concludes rotational chair of AU with good records appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

This week witnessed the end of Egypt’s one-year rotational chair of the African Union (AU). Several political pundits agreed that Egypt contributed, during that period, to reforming the continental body and enhancing coherence among its members in different fields.

President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi on Sunday travelled to Addis Ababa to participate in the 33rd AU Summit, where he handed over the AU presidency to South Africa.

In 2019, the Egyptian political leadership worked on several levels in the interest of the African peoples, and to promote cooperation between Egypt and African countries. It outlined six priority areas: economic and regional integration, bridging the gap between African nations, boosting cooperation with international partners, economic and social development, institutional and financial reform of the AU, and achieving peace and security.

The 2019 AU presidency was considered as a boost for Egyptian diplomacy and foreign policy, which came in line with Al-Sisi’s approach, since he came in power in June 2014, to establish strong relations with the African continent.

Mostafa Abu Zaid, director of the Egypt Center for Economic and Strategic Studies, said Egypt played a pioneering and pivotal role during its presidency of the AU, as it adopted economic strategies and initiatives to enhance cooperation with the neighbouring African countries.

Abu Zaid added that the government and the banking sector took several steps to support the bonds of cooperation with Africa, including the launch of The Sovereign Fund of Egypt to support human resources in the continent and the inauguration of several exhibitions and events to promote free trade in the continent through the Ministry of Trade and Industry and the African Export–Import Bank.

Several cooperation protocols were signed between the General Authority for Investment and Free Zones and some African countries including Tanzania to finance the building of Stiegler’s Gorge dam through loans from Egyptian banks, and to provide technical support in the field of renewable energy.

Egypt also addressed major political and economic challenges in the continent, which recovered the country’s diplomacy after long absence. Handing over the AU presidency to South Africa did not mean that Egypt would stop working for the interest of the continent, but its role would be actually more stronger.

Ikram Badr El-Din, a political science professor in the Cairo University, said Egypt, during its presidency of the AU, managed to attract the world’s attention to the continent, making great impact in different areas.

He added that Egypt carried out intensive and significant activities, including high-level meetings held by Al-Sisi with other countries and representing the continent in international events, such as the Tokyo International Conference on African Development, the Russia-Africa Summit and Economic Forum, the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, and the German African Business Summit.

Egypt presented a positive image of African before the world and shed the light on the continent’s promising opportunities for investment and the possibility of joint cooperation to achieve development, Badr El-Din said. Egypt also supported African-African integration and with other countries around the world.

Additionally, Egypt launched an initiative to treat one million African HIV and Hepatitis patients and held a youth conference on how to respond to HIV-related stigma and discrimination. As for countering armed conflicts, Egypt contributed to the launch of Silencing Guns 2020 initiative, and won membership of the AU Peace and Security Council for 2020-2022.

Tarek Fahmy, a political science professor in the American University in Cairo, said Egypt successfully represented the African continent in world events, presenting clearer and more stable vision, which attracted major countries to launch development projects in Africa, such as the G20 Summit.

President Al-Sisi exerted great efforts to push forward joint African action and revive AU institutions. He also supported innovation and entrepreneurship.

Moreover, the State Information Service (SIS) said Al-Sisi was keen to attend different international forums to showcase concerns and hopes of the African nations, where he called on major businesspeople and international companies to invest in the continent.

In terms of economic integration, Al-Sisi helped development of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), accelerating intra-African trade and boosting Africa’s trading position in the global market by strengthening Africa’s common voice and policy space in global trade negotiations. Egypt announced in May 2019 that the AfCFTA went into force after being ratified by 22 countries on the continent, and entered its operational phase following a summit in July 2019. Also, Egypt organised the Investment for Africa Forum and the Arab-African Investment Conference to stimulate investment in the continent.

In April 2014, Al-Sisi went on a tour in West Africa (Guinea, Ivory Coast, and Senegal) to enhance Egypt’s relations with these countries and discuss ways to increase economic cooperation in this region.

As for peace and security issues in Africa, Egypt brokered talks to solve the dispute over maritime territory in the Indian Ocean between Kenya and Somalia, contributed to launching Silencing Guns 2020, hosted political negotiations over the Sudanese crisis, and pushed for political settlement to the Libyan crisis. In December 2019, Egypt signed an agreement with the AU to host the African Union Center for Reconstruction and Development.

As for youth and education, in November 2018, at the closing ceremony of the World Youth Forum, Al-Sisi announced that Aswan would be the capital for African youth. In March 2019, the Association of African Universities launched its North Africa Regional Office at Al-Azhar University in Egypt in a move to decentralise the association’s activities and increase its visibility and impact in the region.

A committee for African affairs in Al-Azhar was formed, and relief and medical convoys were sent to different African countries in an attempt to boost cultural coexistence and tolerance. Al-Azhar University and its institutes annually receive students from 46 African countries, provide training for clerks on how to confront extremism and deal with controversial issues, and establish institutes and centers for teaching the Arabic language.

Al-Sisi issued directives to all Egyptian state agencies to enhance cooperation with their African counterparts in all fields, which resulted in many cooperation programmes.

In the field of energy, Egypt supported the efforts of African countries to produce energy from renewable resources, under the Africa Renewable Energy Initiative, since its inception in 2015, which is set to achieve at least 10 GW of new and additional renewable energy generation capacity by 2020, and mobilise the African potential to generate at least 300 GW by 2030.

In cooperation with the AU and China, Egypt launched an initiative to provide electricity to more than 600 million people in Africa.

In the field of transportation, Egypt launched the Cairo-Cape Town Highway and a project to link the navigation line from Lake Victoria to the Mediterranean Sea. The Ministry of Civil Aviation also started operating air flights to Douala (Cameroon), Kigali (Rwanda), and Abidjan (Ivory Coast).

In the agricultural field, Egypt established several model farms in continent. The Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation organised training courses in Kenya, Tanzania, Ghana, Ethiopia, Zambia, Sudan, South Sudan, and Malawi, on the latest modern irrigation systems, water management, agricultural wastewater treatment.

In addition to Al-Sis’s tours in Africa, several Egyptian political, economic, and other state institutions played major roles in the promotion of Egyptian-African relations.

Moreover, the parliament speaker Ali Abdel Aal met with the heads and members of different African parliaments and discussed cooperation in legal and regulatory matters. Abdel Aal visited eight African countries: Burundi, Tanzania, Djibouti, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Nigeria, and South Sudan.

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UN social campaigns in 2020: light at the end of the tunnel Sat, 08 Feb 2020 13:32:04 +0000 UNICEF, UNHCR succeed in raising people’s awareness of unspoken issues in Egypt

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Despite the government’s continuous effort in enhancing people’s living conditions, some social dilemmas remain untouched, leaving those less fortunate behind to suffer silently if not for the support and awareness of United Nation organisations in Egypt.

For the past two years, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Egypt have been playing massive roles in raising the people’s awareness about the unknown struggles both children and refugees face in Egypt.

Through social campaigns, which have garnered great success in speaking the untold stories of refugees and children, the UN Commissioners have acted as hidden soldiers behind enhancing the lives of hundreds of children and refugees when it comes to social acceptance.

Social campaigns are one of the many things the UNHCR and UNICEF plan to focus on this year, due to the remarkable success both entities witnessed in recent years.

Speaking of children’s hidden lives

The year 2019 witnessed one of the largest campaigns tackling what is believed to be a taboo for children, bullying and domestic abuse.

Through the first ever multimedia campaign for this purpose, “Awladna” (Our Children), UNICEF addressed violence against children with a special focus on physical and emotional discipline, as well as domestic abuse against adolescence. The campaign gained momentum through the cooperation of the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood (NCCM), and in its partnership with the Ministry of Education and Technical Education (MoETE), with additional funding from the European Union.

For the first time in the Egyptian modern history, a social campaign fought an unspoken battle against the ongoing crisis – school bullying – revealing shocking stories and statistics of children witnessing all sorts of violence.

The campaign has been running for three years, over three phases, each addressing a single topic.

“This year, we will address internet safety, female empowerment, and combating female genital mutilation (FGM),” Bruno Maes, UNICEF Representative in Egypt told Daily News Egypt, “priority areas remain to be Ending Violence Against Children. This year, [The campaign] also addresses violence in schools, including sensitising teachers and caregivers on positive parenting.”

The campaign will also continue cooperating with NCCM and MoETE.

“UNICEF, with its partners, also plans to shed the light on internet safety, as globally, and in Egypt, more and more children and adolescents are gaining access to devices that connect them to the digital world, in turn exposing them to new vulnerabilities and threats that previous generations have not been much exposed to. Part of the campaign messages will highlight the effects of cyberbullying, and will provide tips for children and adolescents and their caregivers on how to stay safe in the digital world,” he highlighted.

In the campaign, which will launch this month, UNICEF will focus on teenagers, especially from the age of 10 to 12, as they are “likely to use the internet, as well as their parents and caregivers as a secondary focus.”

Maes further explained that UNICEF seeks to educate young parents on health, nutrition, social and cognitive development of children during these critical five years.


Bruno Maes, UNICEF Representative in Egypt

Through identifying verbal and emotional violence, and providing tips on positive parenting, last year’s campaign witnessed a never before seen success: reaching 84 million social media users, and 1.9 million people offline.

Reporting to DNE, UNICEF revealed that the national Child Helpline (CHL), run by the NCCM, that the campaign aimed to promote has witnessed an increase in the number of filed cases during the campaign, reaching 2,754 in October 2019, compared to 2,509 filed cases in October 2018. About 64% of callers have heard about the CHL from its TV campaign, emphasising a rise in the demand for child protective services.

“The previous campaigns have succeeded in engaging people in discussions about positive parenting, how to deal with difficult parenting situations, and children in distress, whether online or on popular TV shows; people are now organically naming and refusing bullying using – thanks to the campaigning efforts – the now very common Arabic term ‘Tanamor’ [bullying],” Maes elaborated.

Spotlighting refugees’ social lives

While the UNICEF focuses on highlighting the struggles of Egyptian children, UNHCR Egypt focuses on exhibiting their activities within the context of Egyptian society. As of November 2019, Egypt hosts 254,140 registered refugees and asylum seekers of which 51% are from Syria.

While exerting maximum effort in maintaining a decent and dignified life for them, the commission also seeks to empower them socially and culturally.

Coming with the belief that social change is born through art, the organisation is also supporting registered refugees by providing s space to release their lives’ worries through their passion.

“Achieving social change through using different kinds of arts has always been one of UNHCR’s main concerns,” says the UNHCR Public Information Associate Radwa Saharaf.We believe in its vital role in bridging the gaps between refugees and their hosting communities. Our support to refugee artists and artisans will continue to grow, aiming at offering them the opportunity to be seen and heard, while promoting artworks that show their resilience and talents.”

Refugee empowerment will mostly be dedicated to women this year, as 2020 marks the commission’s 70th anniversary. The commission plans to support 40 refugees this year to start their own cooking project.

“The project aims to empower 40 refugee women through providing them with cooking workshops to improve their cooking skills and provide them with an equipped kitchen. It is in collaboration with the National Council of Women, and the Mumm company is moderating the kitchen and would present the meals cooked by refugees on their website so that anyone can order online,” Sharaf stated.

Last year, the commissioner highlighted the journey of refugees in Egypt, through ‘I Am a Refugee… And This Is My Story’, a docuseries presenting the story of six refugees in Egypt, which was showcased on the television channel OSN during the Holy month of Ramadan.

In Egypt, UNHCR also organised the Beyond Borders exhibition, an art platform displaying the work of “more than 70 hand painted pieces of 22 refugees from six different nationalities to promote for their excel artwork and get a chance to sell it.”

Sharaf revealed that in 2019, the UNHCR aimed at involving refugees with Egyptians’ environmental and athletic activities as we believe that it is the quickest way to make refugees and Egyptians mingle and get to know more about each other.

“For that reason, the UNHCR organised a marathon in Alexandria with Alex Marathon that was joined by more than 500 participants including 120 refugees and asylum seekers of all ages. Also, we mobilised volunteers from across different refugee communities in Egypt to participate in a Nile clean-up event organised by Very Nile,” she concluded. 

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Could the death sentence be a deterrent for terrorists in Egypt? Tue, 04 Feb 2020 17:50:13 +0000 ‘Sentencing a terrorist to death will not eliminate crimes they committed,’ says Egyptian military expert 

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Two militants, who were convicted in dangerous and high-profile attacks against security forces in the last few years, were brought to justice in 2019. This has risen many questions on whether the death sentence could be a deterrent for terrorists in Egypt and contribute in the decrease of similar attacks.

On 27 November 2019, a Cairo military court sentenced the most wanted major militant in Egypt, Hisham Al-Ashmawy, a notorious jihadist, to death over several charges, including planning the Farafra checkpoint attack, near the Egyptian-Libyan border, which killed 22 soldiers in July 2014. It was one of the deadliest attacks against Egyptian security forces in recent years.

He is also convicted for the assassination attempt of former Egyptian Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim in September 2013, and for planning attacks targeting merchant ships in Suez Canal in mid-2013.

Ashmawy was apprehended in Derna by the Libyan Arab Armed Forces headed by eastern military commander Khalifa Haftar, in October 2018. He was then extradited to Egyptian authorities in May 2019. Before his extradition, several Egyptian military courts sentenced him to death in absentia.

Retired Egyptian General and military expert Talaat Mesalam told Daily News Egypt that sentencing a terrorist to death will not eliminate the crimes they committed or the attacks that he carried out. “Even inside prison, Ashmawy could be a source of annoyance.”

Yet, Mesalam believes the death sentence of the jihadist will still have an impact, albeit limited.

He added that it is not easy to evaluate the significance of Ashmawy as a leading militant, especially since the court trials were not public. But he could conclude from the information provided on the charges he is convicted of that he is “a dangerous terrorist and his danger surpassed other terrorists.”

“The execution or imprisonment of terrorists cannot guarantee that the kinds of attacks they carried out or planned would not recur in the future,” Mesalam pointed out.

One of the elements that made Ashmawy dangerous is that he was among a small succession of former Egyptian army officers who joined militant groups. He was a special forces officer before he joined different militant groups in Egypt and Libya with the main target to attack the country’s army and police.

In 2011, Ashmawy was discharged from the Egyptian army after displaying radical tendencies. He joined in 2013 the Ansar Bayt Al-Maqdis militant group, a Sinai-based group which emerged after the overthrow of former Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi after mass protests.

Al-Ashmawy is believed to have gone to Libya in 2013 before defecting from Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, which pledged its allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) group in November 2014 and changed its name to Wilayat Sinai (Sinai Province).

“It’s not clear how Ashmawy’s death sentence can do more to protect Egyptian national security and its forces. The terrorist leader, while allegedly behind many of the largest atrocities against Egyptian security forces since 2013, was captured by the LAAF over a year ago,” Zack Gold, an analyst at CNA in Arlington, US told the Daily News Egypt.

Hrsaid, “While bringing Ashmawy to justice and serving him the ultimate sentence is important for the morale of Egypt’s military and police, political violence in the country — while diminished from its height — has moved on under the leadership of others.”

Gold said “it was easy to blame Ashmawy, who was both a skilled military tactician and was familiar with Egyptian army training, for attacks in which the army or police suffered significant casualties.”

Ashmawy appeared in a video in 2015 under the nom de guerre of Abu Omar al-Muhajir and claimed responsibility for the Farafra checkpoint attack. He also announced the formation of his Al-Qaeda-aligned militant group Al-Murabitoon.

Al-Murabitoon may have connections to another Al-Qaeda affiliated group, which has a known presence in Egypt known as Ansar al-Islam, according to the Washington-based Tahrir Institute of Middle East Policy.

Ashmawy later in July 2015 called for a holy war against the Egyptian government in an audio message.

Alongside another army officer-turned-jihadist chief, Emad al-Din Abdel Hamid, Ashmawy is accused of conducting several attacks in the Western Desert and the Delta including the assassination attempt of interior minister Mohamed Ibrahim.

“Without Ashmawy, both IS and Al-Qaeda-linked groups have managed high-casualty attacks on both sides of Egypt. The Egyptian army, especially, has proved that when it takes the initiative it can keep the pressure on militants in Sinai,” Gold pointed out.

Abdel Hamid was one of the leaders of Ansar al-Islam, which claimed another deadly terrorist attack against security forces in Bahariya Oasis in the Western Desert, about 85 km southwest of Cairo, in October 2017. The attack, which is publicly known as the Al-Wahat shootout, killed 16 police officers and injured 13.

The Egyptian army, in coordination with security forces, launched airstrikes for weeks targeting the perpetrators of the attack and killed Abdel Hamid in Egypt’s Western Desert In November 2017.

A Libyan militant named Abdel Rahim Al-Mesmari was the main defendant in Al-Wahat attack, according to Egyptian prosecution investigations. Al-Mesmari, who was arrested in November 2017, was trained by Abdel Hamid.

Mesmari was handed a death sentence by an Egyptian military court on 17 November, only 10 days before the verdict against Ashmawy was issued. Other defendants in the case also received various prison sentences.

Retired Egyptian General and military expert Gamal Mazloum remarked DNE that bringing both Ashmawy and Mesmari to justice “will deter other terrorists who are operating in Egypt or outside the country.”

Mazloum praised the arrest of Ashmawy and the court verdict. “It is a major step for the Egyptian state to take against a terrorist who carried out attacks in Egypt and then fled to Libya to launch other aggressive attacks against security forces.”

Mazloum highlighted the army and police’s military offensive on terrorism, saying that it contributed to an “obvious decline in the number of terrorist attacks” in 2019.

Since February 2018, the Egyptian military and police launched a campaign dubbed “Sinai 2018” to confront militants in central and North Sinai, the Nile Delta region, and the Western Desert. The army regularly publishes statements on the updates of the military operations, including security raids on terrorists’ hideouts and killing of alleged terrorists.

Hundreds of police and army personnel were killed in terrorist attacks in the last six years.

In 27 September 2019, seven Egyptian soldiers and one civilian were killed while ten others, including soldiers and civilians, were wounded in a deadly ambush on an Egyptian military checkpoint in Bir Al-Abed, North Sinai. The attack was claimed by Wilayat Sinai.

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Calls inside parliament to cancel 2005 free trade agreement with Turkey Tue, 28 Jan 2020 14:23:56 +0000 ‘Agreement is supposed to be reassessed in 2020, but there is no intention to cancel it,’ says economic analyst

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Parliamentary committee of industry and trade, headed by Mohamed Farag Amer, called for the abolishment of the 2005 free trade agreement between Egypt and Turkey, only a few weeks after several MPs had presented a proposal to boycott Turkish products on the back of ongoing political divergence between the two countries.

Amer justified his call explaining that the agreement harmed Egyptian products, and contributed to flooding the local market with Turkish goods, which, in most cases, do not meet Egyptian standards. There was a clear deficiency in the Ministry of Trade and Industry’s handling of this file, he said, pointing out that the committee had previously asked to cancel the free trade agreement because it negatively affected local industry.

He claimed that Egyptian consumers were no longer interested in Turkish products after the escalating hostile attitudes of Ankara against Cairo.

“It seems like there is an intention for harming Egyptian products and causing broad lay-offs. Strict measures must be taken through the World Trade Organization regarding the spread of Turkish products in Egypt,” he continued.

It came during a meeting of the industry committee to discuss MP Mohamed Al-Ghoul’s inquest about the large presence of imported wood particles from Turkey and China in the Egyptian market.

Al-Ghoul explained that these imported woodchips might lead to the closure of granular wood factories in Edfu and Nag Hammadi towns due to the accumulation of large quantities of wood in stores, as well as the sales decline in the local market.

Loses of millions of pounds are expected as large quantities of wood piled up in warehouses in Nag Hammadi, Qena governorate, which is the largest of its kind in the production of wood (fiberboard) in Egypt and the Middle East. The factory is under threat of closure and laying off thousands of workers as it cannot market its products due to their high prices compared to the imports.

Al-Ghoul said the free trade agreement was signed in 2005 by former prime minister Ahmed Nazif and came into effect in 2007. The deal was activated in 2013 under the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood. Turkish exports to Egypt exceeded EGP 4.6bn, while Egyptian exports to Turkey were only EGP 1.1bn, so the trade agreement was skewed to benefit Turkish industry only.

“You [Ministry of Trade] did not try to protect the local industry,” he claimed, referring to America’s imposing of 10-25% fees on Chinese imports.

“Turkish products have been entering the Egyptian market with zero customs for two years in violation to the timeline of the agreement,” Al-Ghoul said, calling for a clear written clarification from the Ministry of Trade and Industry on this issue.

This should not be happening in light of the deteriorated relations with the Turkish state, he added, describing the situation as “collusion between Turkish factories and some Egyptian importers at the expense of the local industry.”

The agreement stipulates that if one side faced any difficulties in terms of its balance of payments, this state should take the necessary measures to adjust its situation in line with the provisions of the World Trade Organization.

Interestingly, relations between Egypt and Turkey have been strained since the ouster of president Mohamed Morsi, however, the trade exchange between the two countries has witnessed steady growth.

Official figures and statistics show an increase in the volume of exports and imports between Cairo and Ankara, year after year, in what appears to be an attempt to isolate political differences from trade relations.

Notably, diplomatic relations between Turkey and Egypt have been maintained at the level of Chargé d’affaires on both sides since 2013. When Morsi was ousted, Ankara offered refuge and protection for the Muslim Brotherhood leadership while waging a media campaign against the current regime.

In addition, the two countries support different sides in the Libyan conflict, as Turkey allies with the UN- recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), while Egypt, along with the UAE, backs the eastern-based Libyan Arab Armed Forces (LAAF) led by Khalifa Haftar.

This dispute intensified after Turkey had signed an agreement with the GNA last November, aiming to establish an exclusive economic zone that extends from Turkey’s southern coast on the Mediterranean to the north-eastern Libyan coast. The move alarmed several countries, including Egypt which allocated huge investments to prospect energy sources in the mentioned region, and may threaten its ability to export gas to Europe.

Ibrahim Al-Sajeni, head of the commercial remedies sector at the Ministry of Industry and Trade, said that the commercial remedies sector will start taking the necessary measures and impose protection fees on Turkish wood as soon as the factory presents a completed complaint with documents proving the spread of Turkish wood.

On the other hand, Egyptian economic analyst Sabri Najeh said: “The agreement is supposed to be reassessed in 2020, and there is no intention to cancel it.”

“In the first nine months of 2019, the volume of trade exchange between Egypt and Turkey reached about $4.6bn, which was the same figure in the whole of 2018. This means that there is an increase in the trade exchange between the two countries,” he added.

“The two countries hoped the increase would be greater, but the escalation of political tension between them affected a lot of things in one way or another, despite the numbers of trade exchange rising year after year.”

“It is not in the interest of the Turkish government to cancel any free trade agreement with any country in light of the recent economic problems plaguing Ankara, and the same applies to Egypt, which has a programme for economic reform, and therefore aims to increase investments with any country, even if it is Turkey,” Najeh concluded.

Egypt’s imports from Turkey increased by 11% between January to September 2019, recording $2.39bn compared to $2.16bn in the same period of 2018, despite recent political tensions between the two countries.

According to a recent report issued by the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Egyptian exports to Turkey declined by 22% from January to September 2019, recording $1.37bn compared to $1.73bn in the same period in 2018.

In the first nine months of 2019, Turkey came fourth in the list of countries importing from Egypt, with a value of $1.2bn, according to the statistics of the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS). 

Notably, the total value of Egyptian non-oil exports increased overall between January and November 2019 to $23.227bn compared to $22.187bn in the same period in 2018, a growth of 4%.

It is expected that this prosperity in economic relations between the two countries will continue in case of the renewal of the free trade agreement scheduled for this year.

In 2018, Ahmed Helmy, chairperson of the Chamber of Wood Products and Furniture, in the Federation of Egyptian Industries, called for the necessity of reviewing the pros and cons of the free trade agreement between the two countries, and taking measures that achieve the protection of the local furniture industry in a memorandum to former Minister of Industry Amr Nassar.

The decrease in Turkish lira’s value, larger exports to Egypt from Turkey, lifting customs on Turkish products, have all led to Egyptian products’ inability to compete with their Turkish competitors in the local market.

He went on to say, “The cost of a wooden product from an Egyptian company may reach EGP 70, while the Turkish product is now sold in Egypt at EGP 58. So many Egyptian companies could no longer operate, and 200 workers were laid off.”

Helmy warned that if the agreement is to continue without any control and with a lack of protection for Egyptian products, many countries like Morocco, Jordan, and others, will continue to push out Egyptian companies from the national market.

Several furniture factories submitted a memo to the Chamber demanding prompt interference to protect them from the harm caused as a result of the low price of the Turkish lira against US dollar. They also said that Turkish products threatens the closure of factories and displacement of labour, and they proposed in their memorandum the necessity of imposing fees on Turkish products that have a local equivalent.

This parliamentary move is considered a second attempt to slight Turkey after MPs called for the boycott of Turkish goods in response to Turkey’s blatant transgressions against the region, along with their attempts to plunder, spread chaos, and destabilise the Middle East.

Egypt’s Congress Party presented a request to Parliament Speaker Ali Abdel Aal to hold an extraordinary meeting to discuss the necessity of severing economic and trade deals between Egypt and Turkey. 

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What is in store for Iraq, Lebanon, Algeria, and Sudan? Sun, 26 Jan 2020 21:13:55 +0000 These protests continue through 2020, affecting Egypt’s foreign policy, either directly or indirectly. In this article, Daily News Egypt views those protests, in addition to the impact of US-Iran escalation on the uprisings in Iraq and Lebanon.

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Last year ended with large-scale uprisings in Iraq, Lebanon, and Algeria, which witnessed an ongoing popular movement. Meanwhile, Sudanese protesters reached an agreement for a power-sharing government.

These protests continue through 2020, affecting Egypt’s foreign policy, either directly or indirectly. In this article, Daily News Egypt views those protests, in addition to the impact of US-Iran escalation on the uprisings in Iraq and Lebanon.

Iraq still on fire

The protests in Iraq did not exactly come as a surprise, as in 2018 a wave of protests had also washed over the country. Those protests were sparked when thousands of Iraqis fell ill from drinking contaminated water.

However, the main reasons behind the protesters anger in 2019 were corruption, unemployment, and Iran’s influence. Many of the protesters are educated, and idealistic young people, who are mostly urban and secular. But the largest group are working-class and poor Shiite Muslims, either from the southern part of the country or with origins there.

During the protests, the government was accused of using force against unarmed protesters, as it used bullets, snipers, hot water, hot pepper gas, and tear gas.

Protests main developments (2019-2020)

In 2019

On 1 October, the Iraqi Protests erupted in Baghdad over high unemployment, poor basic services, and state corruption.

The protests stopped on 8 October, and resumed on 25 October.

On 29 November, Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi announced that he would resign.

On 28 October, a top security authority for Baghdad declared an open-ended curfew on the capital.

On 8 November, Ali al-Sistani, Iraq’s influential Shiite cleric, called on the government to respond to the protesters

On 29 November, the prime minister announced his resignation.

On 24 December, The Council of Representatives passed a series of electoral laws allowing voters to select individuals.

On 26 December, President Barham Salih submitted a letter of resignation

On 29 December, the US hit Kataib Hezbollah bases in Iraq killing 25 members, and injuring 51 others.

On 31 December, Hundreds of pro-Iran protesters demonstrated over the US air in front of the US embassy

During the ongoing demonstrations, many headquarters of political parties were burned down. The protesters had blocked Iraq’s main port Umm Qasr several times. Since the beginning, Iraqi forces used live bullets and tear gas in order to disperse the protesters, killing at least 511 people, while injuring more than 21,000.

However, the killing of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani in Iraq by US strikes on the third day of the new year forced Iraq to be stuck in the middle of an US-Iran military escalation. The escalation had animated the pro-Iran militias, making domestic reform -the protesters’ main goal- more difficult.

Egypt asked all the parties to stop the mutual violence

The foreign Ministry announced that it follows with great concern the current escalation in the use of military force in Iraq, asking “all parties to refrain from spiraling into a cycle of mutual violence, and to assess the resulting dire consequences.”

The situation is worse in Lebanon

Entering 2020, the situation in Lebanon is as difficult as the situation in Iraq, and Soleimani’s killing also reanimated the pro-Iran group Hezbollah.

The protests erupted in Lebanon on the night of 17 October. Lebanon’s nationwide protests aimed at forcing a mass resignation of the whole political system in Lebanon.

The revolutionary wave continues to grow, including Lebanese nationals of different religions, sects, and political affiliations taking to the streets to demand for their rights.

The protests were motivated by the repercussions of the economic and monetary crisis in Lebanon, but the crisis is rooted in a structurally flawed economic system, wrong political practices, and corruption embraced by the successive governments for decades.

At the beginning, the protesters were triggered by new proposed taxes, they blocked important streets in Beirut, but later on, the protesters started to demand ending the sectarian rule, calling to establish a technocratic government, and condemning the stagnant economy, unemployment, endemic corruption in the public sector, and the government’s failures to provide basic services such as electricity, water, and sanitation.

Protests main developments (2019-2020)

In 2019

On 17 October, about one hundred civil activists start protesting against the new proposed taxes blocking important streets.

On 19 October, the first martyr of the revolution, Hussein Al-Attar, was shot while protesting

On 24 October, President Michel Aoun stated his willingness to hold a dialogue with the protesters

On 29 October, dozens of counter-demonstrators attacked protesters in Beirut, destroying tents, and tearing down banners.

Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced his resignation in a televised address..

On 11 November, the Lebanese Federation of Syndicates of Bank Employees called for a general strike for its 11,000 members over concerns for safety

On 12 November, the second martyr of the revolution, Alaa Abou Fakher, was shot dead in the coastal town of Khalde, south of Beirut

On 3 December, Protesters gathered across the country in response to businessman Samir Khatib’s nomination as possible new prime minister.

, On 8 December Khatib withdrew as candidate for prime minister

On 19 December, the parliament designated Hassan Diab as the next Prime Minister succeeding Hariri.

In 2020

On 14 January, mass protests resumed across the country, as protesters, smashed the edifices of banks in Beirut.

The protests toppled the government of Hariri, with protesters refusing to leave the streets before seeing concrete measures such as the formation of a new government.

To make the situation even more complicated, the Lebanese political system is confessional, as the elected Members of Parliament and government positions allocated based on religious sect. While the President must be a Maronite Christian, only a Sunni Muslim can take the position of the Prime Minister, and the Speaker of Parliament is a Shiite.

With the resignation of the former prime minister, Lebanon will see a new government soon. However, that government is expected to be handpicked by Hezbollah and its allies.

Despite the economic collapse and contraction, the current escalations with US will likely lead the new government to focus on the security of the country’s institutions and supporting Iran.

Algeria remains in crisis

The mass-protests which swept Algerian streets on 3 January 2020, indicates that the county is still suffering.

The protesters demanded the release of detained activists, protest against the government’s control over associations and media, and calling for change in the political system. The protests were peaceful and led the military to insist on Bouteflika’s immediate resignation.

Leaving the new elected President Abdelmadjid Tebboune with only two choices in order to diminish the protest movement. The two choices are either to respond positively to the demands or by cracking down hard and deal with the resulting risks and consequences.

Protests main developments (2019-2020)

In 2019

On 22 February, about 800,000 protested against the government, after president Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced his candidacy for a fifth presidential term.

On 31 March, Bouteflika named a new government

On 2 April, Bouteflika announced his resignation

On 4 May, a significant number of power-brokers close to the deposed administration, including the former president’s younger brother Saïd, had been arrested,

On 12 December, the presidential election was held, despite wide popular opposition.

In 2020

On 2 January, the new president Abdelmadjid Tebboune realsed 76 detained activists, stating that he hopes to launch a serious dialogue with the protesters

Tebboune had also appointed Abdelaziz Djerad as prime minister and the rest of his cabinet mostly consisting of ministers of the previous government.

Without any change in the governmental figures, the new cabinet nominated a third of the ministers from previous governments, including the prime minister and key cabinet posts. The protest movement rejects dialogue without more gestures from the government.

Whether the protest movement can placate by reforming the constitution and election law is yet to be known. The new government should also relax the grip on civil and political activities, and expanding job creation to address a young population’s dissatisfaction as well.

On the other hand, Algeria’s economy needs urgent attention as growth has stagnated due to declining investment, in addition to the fact that budget deficits and inflation are rising.

The new year will show whether technocrats brought into the new cabinet have the vision and political backing to finally start serious liberalisation of an economy long dominated by the state’s energy industry -which already needs massive new investment.

Egypt supports the new elected President Tebboune

Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry visited Algeria. He also delivered a message to President Tebboune from Al-Sisi, congratulating the Algerian President on assuming his duties.

Sudan reached a power-sharing agreement

The unrest in Sudan can be traced back to December 2018, when then president Omar al-Bashir’s government imposed emergency austerity measures to try to stave off economic collapse.

Cuts to bread and fuel subsidies sparked demonstrations in the east over living standards, but the anger spread to the capital, Khartoum, demanding for the removal Bashir, who had been in charge for 30 years.

In 2018

On 19 December, street protests started in Sudan over tripling the price of bread

In 2019

On 22 February, Bashir declared a yearlong national state of emergency

0n 23 February Bashir  appointed his chosen successor, Mohamed Tahir Ayala, as Prime Minister

On 6 April, the movement reached a climax, when demonstrators occupied the square in front of the military’s headquarters.

On 11 April, al-Bashir was ousted from presidency and placed under house arrest by the military.

Between mid-April and June, the Transitional Military Council started negotiations with protesters who demanded civilian rule.

Between 3 and 11 June, remarked theKhartoum massacre,” when Sudanese armed forces storming a camp in addition to medical facilities and opening fire on protesters,

On 4 August, the different parties signed the Draft Constitutional Declaration which defines a Sovereignty Council of five civilians, five military, and a civilian to lead the council. In the end, it was a military figure that was elected.

The protests resume in 2020

On 2 January, 2,000 women marched to Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok’s office and submitted a petition signed by 46 citizen’s groups and 13 political parties complaining that the  list of nominees for state governors, is a men-only list and calling for laws against female genital mutilation and child marriage.

Egypt supports the people’s will

Egypt announced its support for the “will of the Sudanese people,” as Egypt’s Foreign Ministry released a statement supporting the Sudanese people, backing the removal of Bashir.

Egypt’s Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi valued a stable, pliable Sudan helping to fight Islamists. He also met the Chairman of the Transitional Military Council, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, in Cairo.

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