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.


Israeli military probes shooting of Palestinian in the back

Updated 19 min 32 sec ago
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Israeli military probes shooting of Palestinian in the back

  • The security-camera video shows Mohammed Habali walking in an alleyway holding a stick when he is shot from behind

JERUSALEM: The Israeli military on Sunday said it has opened an investigation into the death of a 22-year-old Palestinian man in the West Bank after a video surfaced appearing to show him being shot in the back.
The security-camera video, obtained from a local restaurant in the town of Tulkarem, shows Mohammed Habali walking in an alleyway holding a stick when he is shot from behind and falls down on his face.
Several other young males are standing nearby or walking away in the same direction — sometimes looking back — apparently to keep their distance from Israeli troops. No soldiers are seen in the video.
In a statement Sunday, the military confirmed that it was conducting an “operational activity” in Tulkarem last week when dozens of Palestinians began hurling stones at the soldiers. It gave no further details on the operation, but the military often carries out arrest raids in the West Bank.
The army said that soldiers responded to the stone throwers with “riot dispersal means” and live fire.
It said military police are now investigating the shooting. It gave no details on when the probe would be completed.
In Gaza, Israeli forces deployed along the volatile border have fired live rounds at rock-throwing Palestinian protesters ever since demonstrations against Israel’s long-running blockade of Gaza began in March. And for eight months, Israeli snipers have targeted one part of the body more than any other — the legs. The Israeli Army says it is responding to weekly assaults on its frontier by Palestinians armed with stones, grenades and firebombs. The military says it opens fire only as a last resort, and considers firing at the lower limbs an act of restraint. Still, 175 Palestinians have been shot to death, according to an Associated Press count. And the number of wounded has reached colossal proportions. Of the 10,511 protesters treated at hospitals and field clinics in Gaza so far, at least 6,392, or roughly 60 percent, have been struck in the lower limbs, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry. At least 5,884 of those casualties were hit by live ammunition; others have been hit by rubber-coated metal bullets and tear gas canisters. The upsurge in violence has left a visible mark on Gaza that will likely remain for decades to come. It is now common to see young men walking through dilapidated streets on crutches. Most have legs bandaged or fitted with a metal frame called a fixator, which uses pins or screws that are inserted into fractured bones to help stabilize them. The wounded can often be seen gathering at a treatment clinic run by the Paris-based medical charity Doctors Without Borders in Gaza City, where Associated Press photographer Felipe Dana took portraits of some of them. Some of those he photographed acknowledged throwing stones toward Israeli troops during the demonstrations. One said he had hurled a firebomb. But others said they were unarmed bystanders; one paramedic said he was helping rescue the wounded, while another man said he was waving a Palestinian flag and another said he was selling coffee and tea. International human rights groups have said the military’s open-fire rules are unlawful because they allow the use of potentially lethal force in situations where soldiers’ lives are not in immediate danger. Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, an Israeli military spokesman, rejected international criticism that Israel’s response has been excessive. Instead, he said that firing at people’s legs was a sign of restraint. Doctors Without Borders said this month that the huge number of patients was overwhelming Gaza’s health care system, which has already been severely weekend by a blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt that has fueled economic stagnation and rampant unemployment, and devastated water and electricity supplies. The Paris-based aid group said the majority of the 3,117 patients it has treated have been shot in the legs, and many will need follow-up surgery, physiotherapy and rehabilitation. “These are complex and serious injuries that do not quickly heal,” the group said. “Their severity and the lack of appropriate treatment in Gaza’s crippled health system means that infection is a high risk, especially for patients with open fractures.” “The consequences of these wounds ... will be lifelong disability for many,” the aid group said. “And if infections are not tackled, then the results could be amputation or even death.” Gaza’s Health Ministry says it has carried out 94 amputations since the protests began, 82 of them involving lower limbs.