A CHARITY worker from Isleworth has spoken of the devastating poverty in Egypt, ahead of the first anniversary of the uprising which toppled president Hosni Mubarak.
Phoebe Aranki-Stoves, Christian Aid's programme manager for Egypt, has just returned after a week-and-a-half visiting some of the nation's poorest regions.
The 27-year-old, of Union Lane, Isleworth, warned about rising unemployment in the country, where 40 per cent of people are estimated to be living below the poverty line.
"The worst and most memorable place we visited was in Beni Sweif where we went to a school that had been completely stripped and refurbished with new plumbing and electricity," she told the Chronicle.
"That's also where I met Maryam in a village called Gzeira Sharona, a 30-year-old woman with four children, who had lost her husband during the uprising.
"She was unable to support her children and I remember her just sitting there crying. It was a very sad moment. However, with the money Christian Aid was able to give her, she opened her own bakery and grocers, so she can now support her children. It was a very powerful and moving experience."
The Eygptian uprising began on January 25 last year, with protesters demanding demanding greater political freedom, an end to corruption and better living standards. After a fortnight of clashes, president Hosni Mubarak stepped down on February 11.
In the last year the fallout from the uprising has led to foreign investment falling, the tourism industry losing money and poverty levels rising dramatically.
With an estimated 40 per cent of civilians now living below the poverty line, the Egyptian government this week resumed talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for an emergency loan.
The civil war in neighbouring Libya has also exacerbated problems.
More than 100,000 Egyptians working over the border have returned home since the conflict began in February, with no way of supporting their families. In the poorest communities almost all men are unemployed.
"The future of Egypt will depend on the government's actions," said Mrs Aranki-Stoves. "They need two things - political stability and economic prosperity. They also need to start looking at helping people get employed."