Egyptian border communities cut off from adequate health care, says new briefing

انقر هنا لقراءة هذا البيان باللغة العربية.

Nubian, Bedouin and Amazigh communities in Egypt have struggled to access adequate health services during the Covid-19 pandemic, a new briefing released by Minority Rights Group International (MRG) reveals. This protracted health crisis for these marginalized groups is occurring despite a national commitment to health service for all Egyptians and huge increases in public health spending since 2011.

In Egypt’s border areas, where many of its minorities and indigenous peoples are concentrated, millions are spent on the outward appearance of hospitals and health centers, leaving marginalized communities with an underfunded health system. which results in unnecessary deaths.

The briefing, which focuses on Nubians in Aswan, Bedouins in Sinai and Amazighs in Matrouh, highlights how quality, if not adequate, health care is concentrated in major urban centers, far from most minorities and indigenous peoples.

“The health status of these communities has been shaped by state policy that privileges centralization and systematically neglects development in rural and border areas,” says Rasha Al Saba, head of the Middle East and South Africa department. North at MRG. It is a policy that has fueled the impoverishment of these communities for decades, which in turn is a major contributor to poor health,” adds Al Saba.

According to the briefing, health facilities in border areas have inadequate equipment and beds. Physicians are few in number and the majority are inexperienced, unqualified or specialized “in name only”. It argues that these factors, combined with a higher proportion of the population living below the poverty line, make it more difficult for minority and indigenous communities in these governorates to access quality health care.

The briefing sheds light on how the healthcare situation in these marginalized, already poor areas has further deteriorated during the Covid-19 pandemic. In Sinai, many preferred to care for their sick relatives at home. As one said, “If anyone close to us got the coronavirus, we would keep them.” It would be better if he died among us.

The situation is so dire in the Sinai that its predominantly Bedouin population is forced to travel hundreds of miles to Cairo to receive quality treatment, provided they can get through security and military checkpoints widely deployed to the area without being subjected to random arrest based on their identity.

Despite good vaccination rates in Matrouh, 14% of those documented to have contracted the virus have died, about three times the national average. The briefing attributes this to the region’s deteriorated health services.

Nubians in Aswan also have to travel long distances to seek treatment. A hospital in Aswan has been described as “simply a place where doctors and staff tick the clock”. But medical tourism is out of reach for many of Egypt’s minority and indigenous populations, with the poverty rate in border areas being considerably higher than the national rate, sometimes exceeding 50%.

Recommendations from the briefing include implementing decentralization policies and fair redistribution of health sector budgets, as well as ensuring free ambulance services as a basic right and tackling the root causes of this crisis. sanitation through local education of doctors, encouraging them to stay in border areas. .

Notes to Editors

  • Read the report here.
  • Learn more about the minorities and indigenous peoples of Egypt in our directory.
  • Minority Rights Group International (MRG) is the leading international human rights organization working to secure the rights of ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities and indigenous peoples. We work with over 150 partners in over 50 countries.

For more information, contact the MRG press office at [email protected]

Photo: Nubian woman in traditional dress sitting and counting money in front of a traditional Nubian house, Egypt. Credit: Dietmar Rauscher.

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