Reliable information from Egypt is hard to come by as pro-democracy protests trigger widespread clashes across the country. Yesterday, Egypt’s Minister of Health, Ahmed Samih Farid, claimed five people have died in the violence in Cairo and over 800 wounded. After the violence from last night, which included reports of gunshot wounds, that number is undoubtedly higher today.
Away from the protests the situation is similarly dire. With little to no police presence in many areas, the health system is vulnerable to ransacking and looting. Residents of one Cairo neighborhood organized a posse to protect a local pediatric cancer hospital from a group of armed men. Violence and checkpoints on the street also appears to be deter some health workers from working out of fear of their personal security. While much of the press coverage is focused on the health of the protesters, it is the stories from other areas that should give us pause. They show an Egyptian health system which is at best stretched to its limits, and at worst teetering on the brink. The is a real risk that all Egyptian citizens will face long term reductions in health access, even those individuals uninvolved in the protests.