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The creation of Al-Azhar Park has become a catalyst for urban renewal in one of the most congested cities in the world.Darb Al-Ahmar, one of the
poorest parts of Cairo, is the site for various AKDN social programmes - including restoration of the decayed housing stock - which are designed to help revitalise the historic district.
Al-Azhar park, undertaken by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, has proven to be a powerful catalyst for urban renewal in the neighbouring district of Darb al-Ahmar -- one of the poorest districts in Cairo. Other AKDN agencies are now working on social programmes in the neighbourhood, including microfinance, education, civil society strengthening and health.

Darb Al-Ahmar Social Programmes
Less than two centuries ago, Darb Al-Ahmar was one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in Historic Cairo. Today, however, the 92,000 inhabitants of the district are among the poorest. While featuring one of the richest concentrations of Islamic architecture in the world, the district also suffers from a lack of adequate basic infrastructure and services such as water and sanitation. When the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) made a baseline study in 2003, the housing stock was crumbling, piles of trash lined the streets, the historic monuments had come under increasing stress, the neighborhood retained an unsavory reputation and hope among its inhabitants for improvements in the quality of life had dimmed.

Since 2003, AKTC and its partners have created a number of social programmes in Al Darb Al-Ahmar, each of them designed to address a development challenge. Hundreds of families have benefited from improvements to the water supply network, including the replacement of lead junctures. Repair of the electrical systems began in 2007. Parts of the sewage network have been upgraded and expanded into alleys previously not served by these facilities. New drainage works are preventing the pooling of water, thereby reducing the potential for water-borne disease. Environmental programmes have stressed general environmental awareness as well as focusing specifically on environmentally friendly solid waste disposal practices. A programme to remove the trash and rubble that is strewn across many roofs in the area and replace them with vegetable gardens was undertaken. Another project installed water supply cisterns on roofs, addressing a chronic lack of water and water pressure. In addition, to tackle the lack of heating in 25 percent of the area’s homes, a pilot project for affordable solar water heating systems was started.

Health
A health clinic set up by AKTC in 2006 now sees over 8000 patients year, a majority of them for antenatal and neo-natal care. The clinic also ran over 80 health awareness courses covering topics related to better nutrition, teenage health, reproductive health and the well being of the elderly. A Listening and Psychological Guidance Unit was established.

Early Childhood Development
The Early Childhood Development programme in Egypt focuses on improving quality within existing childcare and kindergarten services, while also encouraging new ECD services for parents and children as needed in communities. The goal is to promote the early stage of growth so that children are physically and emotionally healthy, safe and secure, ready to learn and equipped with the necessary social skills to interact with peers and adults.

The Programme, drawing from the Aga Khan Foundation’s breadth of knowledge on the subject, started with the training of teachers. Regular awareness-raising sessions were held with parents of the area to introduce them to child-centered teaching methods. Art and cultural workshops were offered in a wide range of creative areas. Literacy courses enrolled students in literacy and government preparatory classes.

Employment
Eleven apartment buildings were fully rehabilitated in 2007 (bringing the total to 70 since 2003), including structural rehabilitation and the installation of private sanitation, water supplies and ventilation. Mediation meetings helped residents and landlords resolve conflicts and residents establish legal occupancy. Almost 50 percent of all applicants for housing rehabilitation agreed to contribute to costs, even if they did not own their properties (a dramatic change in attitudes from 2003).

Over 350 people found jobs through an employment programme; the number of employers showing interest in the programme rose from 104 in 2006 to 371 in 2007. Over 360 trainees learned a variety of new skills, including Microsoft applications, secretarial skills, accounting, leather production, tent-making and jewellery fabrication. The vocational training programme graduated 24 people in plumbing and basic carpentry courses. In addition, nearly 1000 neighbourhood people received career counselling.

AKTC’s operations of neighbouring Azhar Park and the continuing restoration of historic monuments in the neighbourhood have provided training for over 1000 people in the neighbourhood. Over 40 percent of the Project’s staff are residents of the neighbourhood – a figure that has steadily risen as residents have gained skills. In 2007, the Egyptian Ministry of Religious Trusts designated another landmark building in the district as a future vocational training center (to be established following restoration by AKTC).

The microfinance programme, established in 2005, offers loans in Darb al-Ahmar and has expanded beyond Cairo to the rural areas of the Aswan Governorate. For more information, please see the economic development page.

 

Om Habibeh Foundation (Aswan)
The Om Habibeh Foundation is an Egyptian, not-for-profit organisation of long-standing, established by the Aga Khan’s late step-grandmother, Om Habibeh, the Begum Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan. It has been contributing to, and supporting, a number of institutions in the Aswan area involved in healthcare, education and income generation for disadvantaged communities. The Foundation is drawing on the support and technical expertise of the agencies of the Aga Khan Development Network to advance several initiatives.

In 2006, Om Habibeh Foundation began implementing a long-term development programme in the Aswan Governorate. OHF focuses on early childhood education, improved nursing education and services, and the strengthening of civil society organisations. Education activities included working with nine kindergartens and daycare centres; piloting summer camps for children as a way to increase interest in early childhood development and encourage enrolment; training 25 teachers and governorate-level supervisors on effective teaching principles and methods; and conducting meetings where mothers were encouraged to establish links with kindergarten/daycare teachers.

 

Nursing Education and Services
A six-year nursing programme in Aswan has been operating since July 2005. It operates in all five districts of the Aswan Governorate and collaborates with public nursing colleges and government-run hospitals, primary health centres and maternal and child-care centres. The nursing programme aims to improve the status and image of the nursing profession; strengthen the quality of nursing education at the diploma and higher education levels; and upgrade the level of nursing services and patient care available in hospitals. Intensive training in nursing practices, English and computers, as well as leadership skills development, has been provided to 90 nurses, nursing teachers and nursing leaders, of which 30 have been sent to the Aga Khan University School of Nursing in Karachi for further training. With support from the World Health Organization, a model nursing skills laboratory has also been established as a learning resource centre.

 

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