The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has devastated people’s lives and societies around the world.
The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has quickly stepped in to support the Egyptian Government, and respond to its needs through a number of programmes to achieve “human security”. This has taken place through targeting health system support and human resources development, as well as private sector promotion and fiscal support to the government budget.
JICA has put forth the message of protecting people’s lives around the world. Here, I would like to introduce the efforts being taken by the agency to support Egypt in its fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
Egypt has exerted great efforts in dealing with the pandemic, and has been ranked first across Africa, third in the Middle East, and 25th globally in the COVID-19 resilience ranking issued by Bloomberg in November 2020.
JICA has been supporting Egypt’s health sector since the 1970s through the provision of technical and financial assistance. The agency’s support focused on improving the health care services, through infrastructure development and provision of medical equipment, capacity building and human resources development.
This comes with the highlight of our long term cooperation with Egypt for the Cairo University Paediatric Hospital, whose extension is under construction through a $20m grant.
Since the Universal Health Insurance (UHI) Law came into force in Egypt in July 2018, JICA has started the Project for Quality Improvement of Hospitals (EH-QIPS) (2019-2024) together with Egypt’s Ministry of Health and Population. This has been implemented to enhance the management capacity and services quality of public hospitals through using the Japanese methodology of 5S-KAIZEN-TQM (Total Quality Management).
JICA believes the EH-QIPS project will support Egypt’s efforts in prevention of disease and control of healthcare associated infection, especially in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. It will also help improve the quality of services in the targeted public hospitals to pass the accreditation level required to join the UHI system.
Besides this, JICA approved last year a technical cooperation project to support the Egyptian government’s preparation of the UHI system building on the Japanese experience in this field.
In October 2020, JICA provided state-of-the-art medical equipment to the renovated Pulmonary Medicine Department at Ain Shams University’s Al-Demerdash University Hospital, worth a total value of EGP 7m.
This complements the efforts made by the Tahya Misr Fund and the National Bank of Egypt (NBE). The equipment includes highly advanced Japanese Bronchoscopes, and an ultrasonic diagnostic imaging system, that will help in diagnosis and treatment of pulmonary diseases.
The equipment will also strengthen the capacity of Ain Shams University against COVID-19, and will be a training infrastructure development for the Third Country Training Programme (TCTP) implemented for African countries.
In July 2020, JICA announced its support for four projects at Egypt-Japan University of Science and Technology (E-JUST). This came as part of the capacity building and skills development of research institutions to enhance future precautionary measures against disease.
The initiative calls upon the researchers and students to propose innovative ideas, applications and research actions against COVID-19.
The projects are expected to contribute to supporting the Egyptian scientific community’s initiatives in response to COVID-19. They also aim to support E-JUST in its COVID-19 research activities, and enhance its role as a research oriented university and to be one of the top research universities in Egypt.
In addition, JICA has been supporting the capacity development of healthcare staff through our Human Resources Development Programme. Within the framework of this programme, Egyptian physicians and nurses have been receiving training in Japan to enhance their knowledge and expertise in several topics.
These include hospital and nursing management, as well as pre-hospital emergency care, in addition to the OJT (on the job training) for physicians in Japanese hospitals. This covers several specialties, such as neurosurgery, liver transplantation, interventional radiology, and others.
To help prevent the spread of COVID-19 among students and families, JICA, through its technical cooperation and financial assistance, has been promoting what is known as “Tokkatsu” activities in the Egypt-Japan Schools (EJSs) in different Egyptian governorates.
These include activities on enhancing awareness on hand washing, personal hygiene and healthy habits. Such hygiene and healthy standards are part of the Japanese style education and culture, which our project was trying to introduce to the EJSs even before the outbreak of the pandemic.
Such habits have shown to be of great importance especially during the COVID-19 to control its spread and for prevention of infectious diseases in general.
JICA also supported the promotion of the Japanese style preventive methods, including a new project funded by JICA. The strong initiative, which was launched in November 2020, was put in place by Egyptian NGO “Agyal Foundation for Youth and Children Development”.
The NGO promotes “Value in Life Activities”, which helps to raise citizens’ health and preventive awareness, including gargling and hand washing, to protect children in local communities from becoming infected with COVID-19.
The NGO is now cultivating young leaders at youth centres in selected areas capable of engaging in implementing activities. It has additionally implemented a series of campaigns through newspapers, publications, social media pages, as well as TV and Radio programmes. This will begin to reach a larger audience, and raise people’s awareness at the national level.
Moreover, in the field of early childhood education, JICA has been supporting infection prevention and control at nurseries in different Egyptian governorates. This has taken place through the provision of sanitary kits and through the implementation of training for the nurseries’ facilitators on precautionary and preventive measures.
Furthermore, a group of early childhood education JICA volunteers, who used to work with little children in Egypt, is now sharing guidance for protection against COVID-19. Using Arabic-language posts on Facebook, the guidance is to help mothers and children easily understand what they should do, in the hope that this will reach every household in Egypt.
To support human resources development in African countries, JICA has continued implementing the Third Country Training Programme (TCTP) in collaboration with Egypt through using the alternative method of webinars.
Training programmes provided cover several topics, particularly the health sector, in order to help trainees from across Africa respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as providing them with necessary knowledge to fight the disease after returning home.
To promote the private sector development, JICA launched in July 2020 a new initiative called “NINJA Business Plan Competition” for businesses emerging during the COVID-19 pandemic. NINJA stands for “Next Innovation with Japan”.
The competition targets startups and organisations from 19 African countries, including Egypt. It aims to promote the growth of start-ups businesses, especially those who have innovative business models and technologies that respond to the changes of social structure and economic activities, in the field of healthcare, education, finance, food and agriculture, and so on.
JICA will cover the budgets of activities up to $30,000 for each of the winning start-ups besides consultancy services for their mentoring.
As a fiscal support to the government of Egypt, on 15 February 2021, JICA signed a budget support loan agreement totalling ¥25bn (equivalent to €200m) with the Ministry of Finance.
The finance will support boosting the liquidity in Egypt amid the COVID-19 outbreak, and encourage more reforms for boosting green growth and renewable energy. At the same time, it aims to improve governance and financial sustainability in the power sector, as well as enhancing private sector participation.
Finally, allow me to emphasise that at all times, JICA remained strongly connected with our Egyptian counterparts to be able to respond to their needs during such difficult times. This has taken place through the formulation of new assistance programmes, and we will continue to deepen the relationship with the government of Egypt.
Omura Yoshifumi, Chief Representative of JICA Egypt Office