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High food prices and unrest in Egypt hit tour operators and horses

Horse tour operators waiting for animal feed, Giza, Egypt. A horse graveyard was found near the Giza pyramid in February. Photo: The Brooke.[UPDATED September 30*] Charities continue to offer aid to horse tour operators in Egypt as food prices rise again according to a report issued this week.

Family tour operators, already suffering a loss of income following the unrest which led to the overthrow of president Hosni Mubarak in January, do not have the cash resources to deal with increasing food and grain prices according to local charities.

The Egyptian Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics found prices for grains and bread were up 10.6 per cent on June, vegetables up 10.9 per cent, meat up 3.07 per cent and a 9.4 per cent increase in the cost of sweet foods.

Egypt’s minister for finance Hazem el-Beblawi confirmed earlier this week that tourism earnings for this financial year are down $1.6 billion on 2009/2010.

This means fewer people taking horse and donkey tours at the Giza pyramids and other areas. And with no other work available, many horse owners are now dependent on animal charities to provide feed and medical care for their animals.

Weekly feeds continue 

While the situation has improved since February according to charity workers, organised weekly feeds still take place near stables in tourist regions around Cairo, Luxor and Aswan.

Director of the Egyptian Society of Mercy for Animals (ESMA) Mona Khalil said that a graveyard of more than 50 horses had been found in February near the Giza pyramid.

“This situation is not just hell for humans. It is hell on earth for our animals too. The cost of feed went up horrifically, if you even can find it in the first place,” she said at the time.

By the end of May, the privately-funded charity estimated they were spending up to $2,100 (€1,479) a week to provide grain for horses.

Irish woman Susan Richards-Benson has worked in Egypt for five years and volunteers with ESMA in the Red Sea resort of Hurghada. She said in the first two weeks of unrest, grain disappeared from the markets.

“At the start, the (animal) charities were overwhelmed. They were trying to feed horses, donkeys and camels but had to assess the animals and see who was critical, then give them food,” Ms Richards-Benson said.

“If there were horses which looked as if they could survive without eating for another day, then they were turned away.”

In Aswan and Luxor, local government authorities have been working with international charity The Brooke to provide aid to tour operators with animals in these areas. This included providing emergency feed to horse-owners in Cairo, Aswan, Edfu and Luxor between February and April 21st, along with free veterinary care. Since then mobile veterinary teams have continued to work in Cairo and at Nazlet El Saman near the Sphinx offering free treatment and advice.

On September 15th, in response to the on-going problems, The Brook increased the visits of these teams to three times a week covering 14 locations around the pyramids.

Osama Gamal, a horse owner in the Giza pyramids region told the charity in February: “Some days I can only offer my horse half the amount of food as I normally would. My family and I are forced to spend our savings to feed ourselves and the animals. Soon we will have nothing to spend and I dread to imagine how things can get worse.”

Charities lack sufficient funds

Charities, including ESMA, recently appealed for continued donations.

Chairperson of the Egyptian Society for Animal Friends, Ahmed El Sherbiny sent an open appeal this week saying “Our resources are still very limited and we can not provide sufficient food and treatment for an extended period, as the number of animals in need of help is very extensive.”

Donors and volunteers can contact ESMA, ESAF or The Brooke.

*See comments below.

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