Egyptian food charity slammed for 'pro-government' Ramadan gift-boxes

Egyptian food charity slammed for 'pro-government' Ramadan gift-boxes
Blog: An Egyptian food bank has been denounced by activists for handing out Ramadan goods in boxes emblazoned with the logo of a government fund.
3 min read
26 Jun, 2015
Workers packing boxes with food goods for Ramadan with the Tahya Masr logo [Twitter]

The Egyptian Food Bank has come under fire from social media users after pictures were posted online of workers packing food into cardboard boxes bearing the logo of President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi's economic initiative Tahya Masr ["Long Live Egypt"].

The charity has denied the accusations of Egypt's online activist community that it is carrying out its work for political gain.

Activist Ahmad Magdy posted the images on his personal Facebook account and wrote that he had volunteered, at a Cairo branch of the food bank, to pack charity boxes for the poor. While working he discovered that some of the cartons carried the logo of the government charity and investment fund, Tahya Masr.

"When poor farmers receive Ramadan boxes with Tahya Masr's logos they'll think the army and the president haven't forgotten about the people, when in reality they're being kind and generous to us with money they've scrounged up in donations," Magdy said.

When Magdy asked workers in charge about the use of Tahya Masr-branded boxes instead of the food bank's standard packages, he was told: "We’ve had an order of goods in these cartons."

Maha Sherra is the food bank's PR manager. 

"The foundation is a neutral, apolitical body that only does charitable work," she told al-Masry al-Youm. "The Tahya Masr fund signed a 10m Egyptian pound ($1.3m) deal with us to buy 200,000 discounted boxes to distribute in poor areas during Ramadan.

"We aren’t the only ones who have signed contracts with the fund to supply charity boxes, the fund is also working with the Misr el-Kheir Foundation among others."

      Close up of the boxes' design [Twitter]

In Dec 2013, the Food Bank was removed from a list of more than 1,000 organisations whose funds the government had frozen.

The group's chairman, Niazy Sallam, spoke out at the time, saying: "Over the past eight years the charity has been in communication with the police and the army.

"We have no people working with us that are affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood."

The Islamic holy month of Ramadan, which began last week, is not just about fasting but also doing charitable acts to help the poor - such as donating food bags filled with staple goods such as cooking oil, rice, dry beans and flour.

This year, the Egyptian Food Bank is handing out 10 million Ramadan boxes in Egypt, where food prices have recently soared because of cuts to subsidies.

The Tahya Masr Fund was created by President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi in 2014 to help fund projects to bolster the economy. Individuals and business tycoons have reportedly contributed billions of Egyptian pounds to the fund.

International law student Rania Ezzat was one of those who took to Twitter to denounce the branding of necessity as virtue.

Translation: The Food Bank is distributing food boxes with Tahya Masr’s logo on them. Even the money that we donate to the poor is being used to benefit Sisi.

Another popular blogger and Twitter user said:

Translation: Dear Food Bank. We would like an explanation for the misappropriation of donations for the benefit of Sisi’s fund. This is exploitation and theft of money for donation.