NGO steps up to provide food boxes to Egypt’s unemployed

By Taha Mohamed

Cairo, Apr 16 (efe-epa).- Ramadan al-Saedi, 25, started unloading food trucks for the Egyptian Food Bank, a charity organisation which connects donors with people suffering from hunger, a couple of weeks ago after he lost his previous job due to the coronavirus crisis.

“Destiny,” a smiling al-Saedi tells Efe as he explains why he quit the date trade which has seen demand plummet since the outbreak of the pandemic.

Al-Saedi is one of dozens of people whom the Food Bank has hired to double its manpower, Mohsen Sarhan, CEO of the charity tells Efe.

To ensure their safety, the Bank’s facilities are disinfected between each shift, and they are shut down periodically for deep sterilization, he adds.

The workers’ task is to help those less fortunate who have lost their jobs or seen their income fall due to measures taken by the government to counter the pandemic, including a nighttime curfew.

“We have more than double the number of people that needed help before roughly… from five to seven million families now we have another five to seven million,” Sarhan says.

They are mostly supported by day laborers, one of the most affected segments of Egyptian society because they are not tied to any government subsidy system.

“When their jobs stopped, their life stopped on that same day,” Sarhan adds.

Shortly after these restrictions were imposed, the Bank decided to provide 500,000 families with food packs as the first stage of a campaign.

“We have already shipped out 400,000 of those food packs. I am really proud that my team has been able to serve 2 million people in 22 days,” he says.

More than 30 percent of the families targeted in the campaign have been provided for in “the first three or four days”, Sarhan says as he praises his compatriots’ solidarity amid the crisis.

The pack, which contains staple food, lasts a family for between 15 and 17 days, and is being delivered nationwide through 5,000 NGOs, he adds.

One of these NGOs is located a few kilometers away from the Bank’s headquarters in New Cairo, where people in need gather at the gate with no face masks or gloves.

Inside the NGO, however, those in charge repeatedly asked people to queue at least one meter apart from each other.

They set up chairs that respect the social-distancing rules for those who were about to receive the boxes, including Reda Salah, 52, who was a carpenter until he was laid off.

“Unfortunately… the work has entirely stopped. There is no income at all. I am married and I have four children,” Salah tells Efe while waiting for his turn.

Before the coronavirus, “my work was fine, I was doing well and my life was normal. I have a workshop. The work has stopped since the coronavirus.”

When asked whether his family members help each other, he says “Yes, normally we help each other, but now we all are in a difficult situation.”

“All of my relatives work as carpenters and craftsmen. We are all affected,” he adds.

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