Egyptian Children Track Environment With Disposable Cameras

children-photograph-mdgsIn an effort to improve awareness of MDGs, a joint UN program arms Egyptian children with cameras.

Last week’s UN Development Summit in New York kicked up significant MDG dust. What the Millennium Development Goals – adopted by 188 countries in September 2010 – represent, and whether or not we have any hope of achieving them has become all the more pressing as 2015 rolls closer. Designed to improve the quality of life by addressing issues related to education, the environment, health, and poverty, the MDGs are being adopted with varying degrees of efficacy throughout the developing world.

With over 80 million people relying on the Nile’s historic generosity, Egypt in particular has a poor environmental record that must be improved in order to meet the 2015 goals. In other respects, Egypt has shown encouraging signs of progress. “Sailing the Nile for the Millennium Development Goals” is just one project that is helping to implant MDGs in the consciousness of the Egyptian children, and they are starting with the children. 

What children see

Initiated in 2006, Sailing the Nile operates in nine Egyptian governorates in order to promote volunteerism and call attention to MDGs.

In 2008, Sailing the Nile received support from a variety of organizations including the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood (NCCM), the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology, the Youth Association for Population and Development, Mansour Group, the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Plan International, the National committee on Viral Hepatitis, Egypt Express, Kwik Kopy, and the UN family.

In 2009, children from Cairo’s Mokattam and Istabal Antar districts were given disposable cameras and encouraged to capture images that were relevant to the Millennium Development Goals. These 45 children aged 8-14 had the opportunity not only to see their work displayed in a collection, but also participated in two workshops focused on the various touchstones of healthy life.

This year they intend to publish a picture book.


The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) is eager to monitor Egypt’s progress towards the MDGs by collecting data and submitting regular reports. They also hope to install an internal monitoring mechanism, and cooperate with various Civil Society Organization Educational Networks.

So far, their research has demonstrated progress, but a growing schism between the income levels of upper and lower Egypt.

On their website, the UN reports that while lower Egypt’s poverty rate should decrease to 6% by 2015, upper Egypt’s will increase to 39%. Households run by women are expected to be hit hardest.

Reports also show that while child and maternal mortality, water and sanitation are being addressed at a pace that is both swift and sustainable, and the government is addressing education and poverty reduction at an “acceptable” rate, women empowerment and the environment are being tackled “slowly.”

Increasing awareness among the populace is crucial, but in Egypt most barriers to progress are built by politics. With the country’s President Mubarak in questionable shape and concerns that his son will succeed him, thereby maintaining the status quo, these barriers will not be easy to tear down.

image via muha…

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