18 February 2010Millions of Egyptian children continue to live in poverty, despite recent gains made for young people, particularly on the legislative front, a study commissioned by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has found. Millions of Egyptian children continue to live in poverty, despite recent gains made for young people, particularly on the legislative front, a study commissioned by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has found. Speaking this week at the study’s launch in Cairo, Sigrid Kaag, UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, said that nearly half of young people under the age of 18 live on less than $2 a day. “It is important to look at how poverty is affecting their lives and how we can address it, because a child who lives in poverty rarely gets a second chance at an education or a healthy start in life,” stated Ms. Kaag, who just wrapped up a three-day visit to Egypt.The study, “Child Poverty and Disparities in Egypt: Building the social infrastructure for Egypt’s future,” found that more than 7 million children are deprived of one or more of their rights, which include the right to nutrition, water and sanitation facilities, access to basic health-care services, shelter, education, participation and protection.In addition, around 5 million children are deprived of appropriate housing conditions, while some 1.5 million children under the age of five suffer from health and food deprivations. The study also found that while poverty does not differentiate by sex, girls, especially in rural areas, are the least likely to attend school or complete their education. The study – part of a UNICEF global initiative conducted between 2007 and 2009 to look at the impact of poverty on children in 46 countries – called for increased investment in children to maintain the progress that has been made so far in Egypt. Further, children and their families should be made aware of child rights and of laws protecting these rights, and policies intended to address poverty among children should target children directly.“If we are to break the cycle of poverty, it is key that children are at the heart of development policies,” said Ms. Kaag.During her visit, the Regional Director met with Egyptian First Lady Suzanne Mubarak and other officials, with whom she discussed an ambitious project sponsored by the First Lady to set up 100 schools in Cairo, as well as the challenges faced by special education initiatives for children with disabilities. In addition to Egypt, three other countries in the Middle East and North Africa region have carried out similar child poverty studies – Djibouti, Morocco and Yemen.