Egypt’s Minister of Social Solidarity Nevine El-Kabbaj witnessed the signing of an agreement relating to the ‘Support to COVID-19 Response’ project, which will provide Egypt with €6m over three years.
The agreement was signed by Egypt’s Ministry of Social Solidarity, the European Union (EU), and the UN Development Programme (UNDP).
The Ministry of Social Solidarity hosted the signing ceremony with all concerned national and international partners in the attendance of: Christian Berger, Head of the EU Delegation to Egypt; Randa Aboul-Hosn, UNDP Resident Representative; and Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs for International Cooperation and Development, Ambassador Lamia Mekhemar.
The new partnership aims to work on two interlinked tiers of the response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, aiming to reduce the implications on vulnerable groups in Egypt.
The first tier is concerned with preventing new infections, in efforts to flatten the curve of mounting cases, especially among the poorer families targeted by the ministry. These families are targeted due to their being unable to afford long periods of time off work, and their being unable to access adequate social security schemes.
The second tier will work on addressing the COVID-19 socio-economic consequences, to expand social safety nets for vulnerable families affected by the pandemic. This tier will also create dynamic work opportunities to families completely reliant on social protection programmes.
To achieve the project’s objectives, it will focus on raising COVID-19 awareness among Takaful and Karama programme beneficiaries. It will also provide support to speeding up the Ministry of Social Solidarity’s national vision and operational schemes to complete the relevant infrastructure and institutional capacity development.
This will see the adoption of digital solutions to enhance its processes with regards to providing services targeting vulnerable groups, such as Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) or less privileged and educated families or sectors.
It will also work on enhancing the vulnerable groups’ socio-economic status, providing support to 168 Elderly Care Institutions and seven Homeless Shelters for the Elderly, supervised by the ministry, and dedicating information and support to PWDs.
El-Kabbaj said, “The ministry consistently works with the most vulnerable and weakest families or groups, having to protect them and ensure their accessibility to socio-economic services or facilities, including minimal economic support, in addition to increased accessibility of health and education facilities for their families.”
“Yet, the COVID-19 pandemic increased vulnerability of our targeted audience, and we had to instantly increase and expand its social safety nets and protection schemes to support families who were borderline poor and were struck by the pandemic’s impact on them thus moving them from a borderline poor score to a confirmed poor classification,” she added.
The minister praised the receptiveness of both the Egyptian Government and civil society organisations that have undertaken much effort to support additional vulnerable groups. This has taken place under a unified social protection umbrella since the beginning of the pandemic last year.
“Today, we will continue building our partnership with the EU to further enhance Egypt’s vision to expand Social Safety nets and Social Protection Schemes targeting the most vulnerable groups,” El-Kabbaj said.
Berger said, “Last April, the EU together with its Member States and European financial institutions launched the ‘Team Europe’ initiative, to cooperate with partner countries and to help them cope with the consequences of the pandemic and its impact on their societies and economies.”
He added, “Considering the scale of this pandemic that is unfolding in an unprecedented scope and speed and by now in several waves, I believe we will win the fight through close cooperation between partners, between countries and regions.”
The EU representative said that the project signed on Thursday with Egypt will support vulnerable groups and reduce the risk of further infections. It is the result of close consultations with the Egyptian Government on the best way forward to fight this pandemic jointly.
“With today’s signature we are demonstrating how the EU-EG partnership is delivering for the benefit of people. In one word: solidarity and close cooperation, especially during challenging times,” Berger added.
Dina Safwat, Assistant Minister of International Cooperation for relations with the UN and its agencies, said that the pandemic has caused a slowdown in the development efforts on a global level.
She said, “Since the beginning of 2020, the Ministry of International Cooperation has sought to hold successive meetings with multilateral and bilateral development partners within the joint partnership platform, to strengthen development cooperation and make development funds available for Egypt’s priorities.”
Safwat praised the development partners’ response, including the EU and UNDP, for the national efforts to achieve development and address COVID-19 impact.
She added that an agreement was undertaken last year to make $500m available from the World Bank. The financing will go to strengthening the social protection network by increasing the number of beneficiaries of the Takaful and Karama programme, which has become a worldwide model in protecting the most vulnerable groups. A further $477m has been provided for health care and the inclusive health insurance project.
Aboul-Hosn emphasised the timeliness and significance of investing in innovation and digital development as immediate solutions to combat COVID-19’s socio-economic implications. She confirmed that several countries had sought digital transformation to protect its economies and people since the beginning of the COVID-19 global crisis earlier this year.