Egyptian moms protest shortages of subsidised baby formula
02 September 2016, 18:05
Cairo - With crying babies in their arms, dozens of Egyptian
mothers rallied on Thursday on a major Cairo road, blocking traffic to denounce
severe shortages of subsidised baby formula, a protest underscoring how
austerity measures aimed at healing the country's ailing economy are hitting
ordinary Egyptians hard.
month, the International Monetary Fund initially agreed to extend to Egypt a
$12 billion loan over three years. Details have not been released but cuts in
subsidies and new taxes are believed to be part of the government's reform
programme that was critical in securing the loan, which is still subject to
approval by IMF's executive board.
is aimed at helping stabilise Egypt's falling currency, reduce the budget
deficit and government debt, boost growth and create jobs. But subsidy cuts
have a history of stoking unrest in Egypt.
Thursday's rally in eastern Cairo, some of the mothers broke into tears while
displaying empty milk bottles to reporters as they stood for hours on the
asphalt with no protection from the scorching sun.
police with helmets and batons were deployed to reopen the road but didn't
force an end to the protest, held in front of the state-run Egyptian
Pharmaceutical Trading Company in eastern Cairo. In footage carried by el-Youm
el-Sabaa news portal a mother is seen shouting at the policemen: "We are
not talking about tomatoes, food, or drink, but formula for the babies."
Fouad of the Egyptian Center to Protect the Right for Medicine said this is the
first time that Egypt has cut baby formula subsidies.
also the first time that mothers rally in the streets to ask for food for their
babies," he said.
prices have increased 40% and the ministry of health has announced that,
starting this month, authorities will issue cards to mothers who meet certain
criteria, making them eligible for the subsidised formula — such as having
twins, working for more than seven hours a day, or having medical records that
show poor health.
is introducing about 1 000 government-run distribution centers for baby formula
across the country. It's not clear what exactly caused the formula shortages.
Minister Ahmed Radi said in a Cabinet statement on Thursday that the government
measures will regulate distribution so the subsidized formula goes to those who
need it the most.
ministry said that the government provided 18 million packages of baby formula,
worth 450 million Egyptian pounds, or about $51m.