© Reuters



refugees and asylum seekers registered by the UNHCR


psychologist per million population

The need for humanitarian action in Egypt

Precarious humanitarian situation for migrants in Egypt

Since the closure of the Balkan route and the introduction of greater controls on the Turkish border, the Mediterranean coast of Egypt has become a major place of departure for migrants and refugees heading for Europe. The 259,292 refugees and asylum seekers currently in Egypt include people of 58 different nationalities, although over half are Syrians who arrived in the country via Sudan. Apart from them the largest groups are Sudanese, Eritreans, Yemenis and Ethiopians. They travelled to Egypt by illegal means and most of them are hoping to go on to Europe or Israel.

Many Egyptians suffer from mood disorders, anxiety or post traumatic stress.

Barriers to services such as healthcare, education, housing and employment forces people to live on the margins of society. In a country already suffering high levels of employment and poor access to basic services, the migrants are increasingly seen as an unwanted burden and are subjected to discrimination.

The living conditions and health of migrants living in Egypt highlights the need for humanitarian assistance, both for Egyptians and for the migrant communities for whom provision is poor. Help for the migrants should take the form of medical assistance within Egypt.

Mental health passed under silence in Egypt

In addition, there are many people within the Egyptian population who suffer from mood disorders, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder. This is particularly true of survivors of domestic abuse, children who live on the streets, prisoners, victims of political violence, people with disabilities, people who use drugs and those with AIDS or hepatitis C. Their problems have a direct impact on their relationships with those around them, especially at the level of the family unit.

However, mental health services in Egypt focus primarily on prevention and are concentrated in hospitals. These services operate under the authority of the General Secretariat of Mental Health which is part of the Ministry of Health. The staff in community settings are not trained in mental healthcare and there is a desperate shortage of specific drugs.


Our humanitarian assistance in Egypt

As part of our humanitarian assistance efforts in Egypt we have rolled out a mental health programme that focuses specifically on the psychosocial issues experienced locally.


Breaking down the barriers to accessing mental healthcare

To address this healthcare crisis, Médecins du Monde launched a project in 2017 to improve access to mental healthcare for refugees and migrants, as well as host communities, in urban areas of the capital, in Cairo and Giza Governorates. This project is funded by the French Development Agency and Switzerland’s Federal Department of Foreign Affairs.

When the Covid-19 pandemic struck in 2020, Médecins du Monde adapted its access to mental healthcare project by setting up a telephone helpline for refugees, migrants and host communities. This helped to reduce barriers in access to mental healthcare during the pandemic. This positive development was made possible by financial assistance from the European Commission.

In Egypt social and cultural prejudices form significant barriers to accessing this type of care, although the needs are very real. In 2017, there was one psychologist for every million people on average at the national level.



Our humanitarian action in Egypt

Helping local organisations provide care for mental health conditions

We support capacity-building for local actors to enable them to address these health issues in the future. Médecins du Monde works to build capacity and raise awareness among staff at primary healthcare centres and NGOs with the aim of improving access to mental healthcare and psychosocial support.

The training and support provided at 12 health centres and by four NGOs, as well as advocacy work targeted at the health authorities, seek to integrate mental healthcare and psychosocial support into existing services.

These interventions are complemented by prevention and awareness-raising activities in specific communities. We work closely with four local partner organisations and over 30 community centres where the flows of migrants and refugees are mainly concentrated.
This work plays a vital role in strengthening the link between the community, the NGOs and the state healthcare services, particularly primary healthcare centres.



The Cairo
The Cairo

In 2020

through our humanitarian action in egypt, we helped communities and:

  • supported 12 health centres in the Cairo region
  • trained 63 healthcare workers and partners
  • delivered 169 mental health awareness-raising sessions
  • developed the capacity of 4 local organisations
  • trained 12 migrant community facilitators
  • delivered 1,151 telephone consultations providing mental health and psychosocial support as part of a medical assistance plan for Egypt


our institutional support

Access to reproductive healthcare for girls living on the streets in Cairo. Programme closed in 2008.
Promotion of healthcare rights for street children in Cairo and Giza. Programme closed in 2012.
Mental healthcare for those most at risk in Cairo and Giza.
Launch of new project on improving access to mental healthcare for migrants, refugees and host communities in Cairo.

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