CAIRO: The Ministery of Family and Population will be increasing the efficiency of its automated phone hotlines as of Tuesday to accommodate rising demand for its services, minister Moshira Khattab said in a statement.
This increased efficiency entails an upgrading of the hotline’s server, a process that took six hours while the server was turned off over night.
This upgrade will allow the hotlines to accept more calls, thereby becoming more available to the citizens around the country.
There are three hotlines offered by the Ministry of Family and Population: a hotline for children (16000), a hotline for family counseling (16021), and a hotline for people with disabilities (08008886666). They are all toll-free and available in all governorates of Egypt. Due to the high volume of incoming calls to these hotlines, the ministry decided to upgrade its system to accommodate the increasing demand for its services.
Khattab explained that the number of callers desiring its services especially increased after the media campaign the ministry launched during Ramadan, which has raised the public’s awareness of the services these hotlines offer.
First launched in June 2005, the hotline for children’s (16000) toll-free service is available 24 hours, seven days per week in all governorates of Egypt. The aim of the service is to monitor violence against children and to provide treatment and rehabilitation for victims. It also functions to ensure that those who engage in violence against children are punished for their crimes.
Callers on the hotline have various needs. According to Manal Shahin, head of the child emergency hotline, the most frequent calls come from people seeking psychological counseling. The second most frequent calls are health inquiries; the third most are those who wish to give their support for the banning of female genital mutilation, the fourth most are legal questions and the fifth most frequent calls come from children in search of help.
The hotline for family counseling (16021) frequently receives reports of underage marriages. Last year, Khattab filed a complaint against a maazoun (a judicial official who presides over Muslim wedding ceremonies as well as certifies marriage and divorce certificates) in the governorate of Gharbia for allegedly conducting marriages for underage people.
The ministry received a report on its family counseling hotline (16021) about this maazoun, according to Magda Barousm, an official at the ministry.
“Apparently [this maazoun] is notorious for conducting those underage marriages," says Barousm. "Not only in Gharbia, but in surrounding governorates and villages as well."