Egypt’s birth rate drops as economic pressure mounts

For Egypt's government and civil society groups, tackling the growing problem of street children is proving difficult. (AFP)
Updated 11 June 2018
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Egypt’s birth rate drops as economic pressure mounts

  • Egypt recorded 26.8 births per 1000 people in 2017 compared to 28.6 in 2016
  • According to the 2017 census, there are now 104 million people, meaning Egypt ranks 13th worldwide in terms of population

CAIRO: Egypt has claimed a victory in the battle to reduce population growth but experts say a drop in the birth rate reflects the country’s economic woes rather than an effective government policy.
Egypt recorded 26.8 births per 1000 people in 2017 compared to 28.6 in 2016, according to an annual report by the Central Agency for Public Mobilization an d Statistics (CAPMAS).
The government has been focused on reducing birth rates as part of its 2030 development plan to reduce health and educations costs.
“The population strategy we built aims to reach 112 million Egyptians in 2030 instead of 128 million, which will save around 200 billion (Egyptian) pounds within the period of 2017-2030 — specifically in insurance, health and education,” said Tarek Tawfik, the deputy health minister.
Mohamed Sherif, a Cairo-based economic analyst, told Arab News that the reduced rates were down to the harsh economic conditions faced by Egyptians rather than government strategy.
“The Egyptian pound devaluation and the continuous rise in prices is the main driver,” he said.
He added that studies have shown that higher living costs lead to a drop in birth rates.
“Lower marriage rates and fear of burden surely affects the birth rates, he said.
Last week, the Ministry of Social Solidarity launched a campaign urging Egyptian families to limit the number of children they have.
The “Two is enough” program aims to change people’s perception in rural areas that having small families through birth control is religiously forbidden, said Rania Fares, the ministry’s program coordinator. She said they aimed to reduce the number of children per family to 2.4 in rural areas.
“The importance of spacing child births will be stressed and suitable birth control methods will be provided, Fares said.
Egyptians have been suffering particularly due to extreme austerity measures that have increased water, electricity, fuel and transport prices.
With a newborn every 15 seconds, Egypt has one of the highest population growth rates in the world.
According to the 2017 census, there are now 104 million people, meaning Egypt ranks 13th worldwide in terms of population.
In February, the Ministry of Health announced that the birth rates in Egypt have seen a decrease by 4 million babies in the past three years, claiming that 2015 witnessed 6.68 million births.
The numbers contradict with the 2015 reports by CAPMAS which claimed there were only 2.69 million births in 2015.


Turkey-backed fighters await ‘zero hour’ to attack Syria’s Manbij

Updated 5 min 38 sec ago
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Turkey-backed fighters await ‘zero hour’ to attack Syria’s Manbij

  • The YPG fear the US withdrawal will open the way for a threatened Turkish attack into northern Syria
  • The YPG have also left Manbij but retain influence over the Kurdish-allied groups

JARABLUS, SYRIA: Opposition commander Adnan Abu Faisal and his army are encamped near the frontline in northern Syria, waiting to launch an offensive on his home city of Manbij.

But they are not the ones who will decide whether to march on the strategically important city, held for more than two years by Kurdish forces supported by the US.

The decision will depend on Turkey, the main backer of Abu Faisal’s group, and on how contacts evolve between Washington and Ankara over the US plans to withdraw forces from Syria, a move set to reshape a major theater of the war.

The US and Turkey are allies both in the NATO defense alliance and in the fight against Daesh, but Ankara sees the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) forces that helped the US-led coalition drive Daesh out of Manbij in 2016 as a security threat.

The YPG fear the US withdrawal will open the way for a threatened Turkish attack into northern Syria, including Manbij, but US President Donald Trump has warned Turkey of “economic devastation” if it goes ahead with the attack.

Abu Faisal’s fighters are awaiting orders near Jarablus, a town held by Turkey and its Syrian opposition allies about 35 km south of Manbij. The frontline in the area runs through open farmland where wheat and corn are usually grown.

“We are ready with our forces ... for ‘zero hour’ to begin any military action,” Abu Faisal, whose forces have more than 300 vehicles including pickup trucks and armored vehicles provided by Turkey, told Reuters.

“Preparations are going at full speed,” he said.

Abu Faisal, 36, was an army captain before Syria’s civil war began in 2011 but defected from the Syrian Army in 2012 to join the fight against Bashar Assad.

Abu Faisal helped wrest control of Manbij from the Syrian Army early in the conflict but fled when it was seized by Daesh in 2014 and has not set foot there since then.

The YPG have also left Manbij but retain influence over the Kurdish-allied groups that hold the city 30 km from the border with Turkey.

Manbij lies near the junction of three separate blocks of territory that form spheres of Russian, Turkish and, for now, US influence.

The US military pullout will not only leave Kurds exposed to possible confrontation with Turkey but will also open the way for the expansion of Russian and Iranian sway into the areas that US forces will be leaving.

The US military deployed into Syria as part of the fight against Daesh but officials later indicated wider objectives included containing Iran, Assad’s main regional ally. 

Late last month, the YPG called on Assad’s forces to protect Manbij from attack by Turkey. Syrian government forces, which are backed by Russia, answered the YPG appeal by deploying outside Manbij.

Abu Faisal’s fighters, backed by Turkish forces, made their own advance toward the city the same day but stopped short of an attack.