Egyptian women require medical permission to buy subsidized baby formula

As part of the requirements of the recent IMF subsidies on various products had to be reduced or eliminated. This has had a drastic effect on the availability of baby formula in Egypt and created difficulties for many mothers.

A recent article in Digital Journal predicted that the austerity provisions accompanying the $12 billion IMF loan could generate social unrest and it already has. Earlier this month, protesting mothers blocked a major roadway in the capital Cairo.
An example of what can happen is shown by the case of Um Ahmed who lives in Fayoum, a city about 100km, or 60 miles, south of Cairo. She has been unable to find subsidized baby formula for her eight months old baby. She has diabetes and her husband only finds occasional work by the day. Ahmed often cannot find any of the subsidized formula: “I have had to buy the expensive kind, but even that sometimes isn’t available. When I can’t find it, I have to boil rice and feed it to him. Sometimes I give him yogurt. What else can we do?” The difference in price of the subsidized and unsubsidized milk is dramatic $7.32 (U.S.) compared to $1.90 for the subsidized packets. This makes a considerable difference for lower income families.
The government is trying to alleviate the situation. The military, which controls a considerable amount of the Egyptian economy claimed that pharmaceutical companies monopolized the market and that the military would provide the packets at $3.38. No mention of the IMF role in the price hike. The milk will only be available in government-affiliated outlets. The military said that the milk would be in outlets by mid-September.
However, the Egyptian Health Ministry is now requiring that women who buy subsidized baby milk, must be first examined to establish their need to do so. Women will be required to have their breast examined by doctors and obtain written confirmation by the examining medical group that the women should be allowed to purchase subsidized milk.
Ahmed, and many others, are infuriated by the requirement saying: “A woman might produce milk, but it might be very little. Or she might be physically able to breastfeed, but she has to work and doesn’t have time. It’s unfair.” A father at a recent protest on a news video said: "I have three babies. I come every week to get milk from here as no woman on earth can breastfeed three babies at once." But once at the outlet he's told there is no milk available. "What do we do with our babies? What do we feed them?" he says in frustration.
Ahmed says that space for speaking up becomes less as conditions worsen. She says there is a lot to say but given conditions a person has to be quiet: “I’m just an overwhelmed mother. I’m uneducated, but I understand, I’m aware and I care about my kids… and I get scared.”


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