Egypt COVID-19 Emergency Response

Reporting date: 21 October 2020 
Total cases: 106K 
Recovered: 98,413 
Deaths: 6,142 

COVID-19 struck early in Egypt. The first case was reported at Cairo International Airport concerning a Chinese national on 14 February. Egyptian authorities notified the World Health Organisation (WHO) straight away and the patient was placed in quarantined isolation in hospital. Fast forward to May and citizens were facing overnight curfews and the closure of everything from schools to shops. Now, local authorities are beginning to enforce precautionary measures again. Find out how we’re working to protect lives and manage localized outbreaks as figures suggest a second wave of the virus… 

Extreme disparity between rich and poor 

In times like these the extreme disparity between rich and poor is laid bare. Those who cannot afford to stay home or lack access to good hygiene, including the famed Zabbaleen community, are at higher risk of infection. The homeless, already left to fend for themselves, also have little means to shield themselves from the virus bringing years of mass inequality across Egypt to the fore. 

In overcrowded slums and impoverished communities physical distancing is nothing short of impossible. For those who have to work to put food on the table, the reality is equally as daunting. The journey via public transportation alone comes with a multitude of risks. Yet, the alternative – previously imposed by a night-time curfew that, if violated, could rack up a fine of up to 4,000 Egyptian pounds (LE) – is un-manageable for the majority of families. With tensions high, the endemic threat of public and domestic violence, particularly against women, children and people with a disability has significantly increased. 

Our response 

Dorcas field staff are working tirelessly across Egypt to ensure that urgent basic needs are met – and that no one is left behind as the restrictions imposed by the pandemic continue to disrupt lives. Through our emergency response we are also committed to upholding the safety and wellbeing of the most vulnerable in society and adapting our activities to meet evolving public health demands.  

Deliveries to vulnerable groups 

Thanks to the generous donations received from our Child and Granny Sponsorship programmes we have been able to distribute food packages to vulnerable households across Egypt. The packages contained basic foodstuffs including rice, milk and fruit. Hygiene kits filled with soap, sanitisers, face masks and other essential items have also been provided. The kits also feature print posters with messages on good hand hygiene and World Health Organisation (WHO) advice. 

“We cannot thank our supporters, big and small, enough for their generous donations during this time”, said _____ one of the Dorcas staff members involved in the distribution. “One donation meant we could provide basic food supplies to 300 families in Benisuif city. Another donor contributed 18 boxes of personal protective masks [50 masks a box] to residents in Minya in Upper Egypt.” 

In Cairo’s Zabbaleen (garbage collectors) community, dirty streets, food shortages and poor health are already facts of life. In the weeks to come, Dorcas will increase our activities in this area. Our team of trained professionals will provide food handouts and cash transfers to vulnerable families – many who rely on a daily wage as their only source of income.  

Emergency Food Security  

To give our response longevity, we have also developed an emergency food security programme. The programme will see families in rural communities receive poultry feed items such as seeds and alfalfa meal so that they can sustain their own livelihoods from their backyard. 

As part of these efforts we are also drawing upon the support of local grassroots organisations. These organisations know the local situation best – and have already begun to assist us in our work. Together we will continue to run smart-agriculture trainings for participants of our Farmer Field School programmes in compliance with all new safety protocols. We meet with the female farmers in groups of six and hand out masks and disinfectants before we get started. We are also keeping an open communication with the women and their families – they can reach their social worker at any time of day to ask questions and resolve worries.  

Support for children and families 

Dorcas has taken our Future 4 Children programme online to provide further support to the Zabbaleen people. Via Zoom, we are gathering children and parents safely under one ‘virtual’ roof to take part in games together and discuss any issues at home. 

We are also distributing kids’ activities – everything from handicrafts to awareness-raising puzzles, play dough and games – to households, encouraging parents and caregivers to get involved too.  

Our team of trained facilitators offer psychosocial support to children and their mothers to overcome anxiety, stress and other mental health concerns. All our activities are designed to ease tensions at home and uphold the safety and wellbeing of the full family unit.  

Safeguarding public health 

Just like our Future for Children activities, we are digitizing much of our awareness-raising materials to keep people informed online. The team have been working around the clock to reach our communities interactively and distribute public health messages on social media in an engaging way.  

Dorcas is also lending a hand to local health units in remote villages by providing vital healthcare supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE) including disposable masks and gowns, disinfectants, alcohol, thermometers and pain killers.  

Next steps 

“As signs of a second wave begin to emerge, one of the most important aspects to consider is how Dorcas will continue to operate if government restrictions are re-imposed”, says Mona Wissa, Director for Life Vision for Development, our main implementing partner in Egypt. “As a team we have made great steps towards operating efficiently in a complex environment. We can’t afford to lose that progress or take our foot off the gas.”  

“As a team we have made great steps towards operating efficiently in a complex environment. We can’t afford to take our foot off the gas.” – Mona Wissa, Director for Life Vision Egypt 

Mona is referring not only to Dorcas’ strong grassroots presence but also to the great strides we have made towards giving a voice to the most marginalised – women, children and youth. “It is thanks to our collaboration with Life Vision that we are able to reach women and girls across Egypt in the first place”, she explains. “Together we will continue to provide vital psychosocial support to victims of harmful practices, domestic violence and early marriage. Where these sessions take place and how we manage them – that is our focus in the months ahead.” 

Life Vision for Development is an Egyptian non-profit foundation that partners with grassroots community-based organisations in Cairo and Upper Egypt to co-implement projects designed to build the capacity of local people and bring about structural transformation. You can stay up-to-date on our joint activities via Facebook or discover the full programme on our dedicated country page 

10 November 2020