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The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has decided to redirect funds earmarked for Egyptian NGOs working against the proliferation of the H1N1 virus to financing "awareness programs" highlighting minorities' rights.
Agency officials did not state overtly that the "minorities" in question referred to Egypt's Coptic Christian community.
According to one local NGO source, USAID took the decision after the Egyptian Education Ministry refused to make students attend seminars on means of combating H1N1, fearing that such gatherings would only increase the probability of the virus spreading outside schools.
The source went on to explain that funds would be provided under an umbrella program that aimed to support the civil rights of "marginalized communities" including women and children as well as "minority groups"--an indirect reference to Egyptian Copts.
NGOs have long urged the government to do away with certain articles of the law obliging them to obtain approval from the Solidarity Ministry in order to receive financial assistance from foreign agencies. The government, however, insists that the law is necessary to make sure funds are not spent on activities that might "endanger national security."
The source further explained that the government was currently in negotiations with the US Congress to provide aid in the form of a jointly-owned time deposit, in which Egypt would contribute one Egyptian pound for every dollar granted by USAID. Under such a scheme, the government would spend the interest generated by the time deposit on national development projects--devoted to poverty alleviation and support for small- and medium-sized businesses, for example--thus allowing it to maintain strict supervision over spending.
Translated from the Arabic Edition.