EGYPT—The Islamic Republic of Egypt, Egypt’s largest economy and largest tourist destination, is struggling with shortages of basic medical supplies.
With a population of over 10 million and a rich history of civil unrest, Egypt has a long and complicated history of chronic shortages.
But, with no easy answers, Egyptians are scrambling to find new ways to survive, with some trying to make do with prescription drugs.
“I feel like my life is over,” said Ahmad, a 28-year-old man from the coastal city of Alexandria, who declined to give his last name for fear of reprisals.
“I’m just trying to survive.”
According to the World Health Organization, one in four people in Egypt has diabetes, with a high prevalence of the disease in rural areas.
With about 5.5 million people, Egypt is the largest economy in the Middle East and Africa, and is the world’s largest producer of drugs.
With shortages, people resort to smuggling, the use of smuggled goods and the use or threat of violence.
“People are using drugs because they can’t afford to buy them,” said Ahmed, who is also a paramedic.
“The most common way is to buy drugs on the black market.
If you have money, you can buy a kilo of heroin.
The price is cheaper than what you pay in a pharmacy.””
The worst part is, you cannot even afford the medicine,” said Mohamed, a 29-year old pharmacy worker who also declined to use his last names.
“We buy drugs to make ends meet, but if you don’t have money you die.”
According the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, more than 4,000 people have died in Egypt since July 2017, the latest month for which data is available.
In April, the U.N. said that the number of deaths rose to 872, more deaths than in the entire country during the same period last year.
But despite Egypt’s growing numbers of drug-related deaths, the government has been slow to act, even as the country’s economy is slowing and the economy has suffered under a long-running political crisis.
The government has taken a more active role in addressing the problem.
It announced in September that the country would increase the minimum wage to 30,000 Egyptian pounds ($43) a month, the highest in the world.
But with inflation hitting record highs, many Egyptians are struggling to make the necessary extra payments.
“If we do not make the minimum payment, we will starve,” said a 23-year, two-year law student.
The International Monetary Fund estimated last month that the price of one kilo ($4.5) of heroin had reached nearly $1,000 a kilogram, an astronomical figure that many fear could see the country become a major drug hub.
In the wake of the recent political turmoil, a number of high-profile opposition politicians have also sought to address the crisis.
The country’s former leader, Mohamed Morsi, resigned last month amid the growing public anger over corruption and the killing of an opposition leader in October.
But other senior opposition figures, including Mohammed ElBaradei, a prominent human rights activist, have sought to make a comeback, including in the run-up to the parliamentary elections scheduled for December 2018.