After committing to a target of 28.4 percent child mortality, Egypt saw a dramatic improvement in child mortality under 5, which fell from 46.5 percent in 2000 to 24 percent in 2015. But it faltered in increasing contraceptive prevalence to 95 percent, and looks unlikely to meet its goal of 30 percent maternal mortality by 2023 (currently at 33 percent).
To meet their target for MDG 4, Egypt promoted exclusive breastfeeding of newborns; if the mother was unable to breastfeed, the government subsidized milk formula. Vaccinations for newborns were made compulsory, especially the tetanus and measles vaccines. And in 1992, even before the MDGs were instituted, Egypt implemented the School Health Insurance Program, which was able to cover 71 percent of all school-aged children by 1995.
But despite programs to improve the lot of women, including a World Bank initiative that sought to raise demand for family planning services by raising family incomes through microfinance for women, Egypt still has quite a way to go before reaching gender equality. Society encourages big families and thus early marriages, as well as less space between pregnancies. Maternal hemorrhage is still the leading cause of death in Egyptian women.
The key to Egypt’s delayed goal for maternal mortality is to continue empowering women to be able to make decisions about their health. An aggressive campaign to increase the number of women in school is necessary. But women cannot be the only targets of this initiative – both boys and girls would benefit from receiving wholesome instruction on reproductive health. Then, the government must invest in increasing health care and family planning providers in rural areas, to ensure that women can easily access the services they need.