By Max Clarke

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) met yesterday with representatives from the Egyptian private sector who pledged to continue to support WFP in providing food assistance to the most vulnerable Egyptian families affected by the economic slowdown following the last few weeks political crisis.

Figures from the World Bank show that recent food price inflation- itself a major driver of rising inflation in the UK has pushed a further 44 million people into poverty. The hike in food prices has further exacerbated the food insecurity for millions of rural Egyptians struggling in the wake of the strikes.

Representatives from Pepsico Tomooh, Vodafone Foundation, Banque du Caire, Banque Misr, Star Care Mercedes, CEMEX Assiut Cement met with Mr. Gianpietro Bordignon, WFP Representative and Country Director in Egypt and senior WFP staff to discuss the first steps to address the immediate needs of the poor families that lost their livelihoods in the southern governorates.

“You have believed in WFP’s work and trusted us with your corporate funds and today we are concerned and want to share with you our concern that the situation of many Egyptian families may require immediate steps to address growing food insecurity among the country’s poorest families,” said Bordignon. “This is your country so we count on you to help us do more to the people of Egypt during this difficult time.”

Egypt’s private sector has largely supported WFP’s school meals project throughout the country in the last few years benefiting more than 300,000 school children in community schools who receive daily nutritious date bars biscuits fortified with essential vitamins and minerals. Many of the families receive take home rations mainly fortified rice as an incentive to keep their children in schools.

Over the past few days, WFP has provided food to more than 3,000 schoolchildren and their families, distributing a 15-day ration - mainly fortified date bars- as well as a one month advance of take home rations (10 kilograms of rice). Close to 11,500 family members in the southern governorates of Assiut and Sohag benefited from this round of distributions. Distribution to other governorates in Upper Egypt have resumed this week.

The UN Food Agency is making plans to expand its existing food-for-education and food-for-work programmes to include more people whose livelihoods have been impacted by the economic slowdown under the current political crisis.