VANCOUVER, Canada — The Egyptian village of Nagrig lies not too far from the Nile Delta, a two and half hour drive on a dirt-trodden road to the capital of Cairo. With a population of 15,000, 65% of which live in poverty, it may be unthinkable that one of the world’s greatest athletes came from there. That is exactly why Mohamed Salah, Liverpool FC forward and Egyptian national, means so much not only to Egyptians, but all those looking to succeed despite the odds. Salah’s philanthropic work in Egypt aims to aid the unfortunate through improving clean water access, access to education and more.
About Salah’s Philanthropic Work in Egypt
It is not only Salah’s success on the pitch, the highest-scoring African player in the history of the English Premier League, that brings him fame, but also his humility on and off it. “To be an Egyptian at this level is unbelievable for me,” he said to journalists after winning the 2018-19 Champions League trophy. Salah’s pride of representing Egypt on the international stage and his philanthropic work in his home country has solidified his status as one of the country’s biggest icons. “His influence is massive. It’s just unbelievable. His humility, dedication and his good deeds towards the poor have made him one of the most popular and lovable public figures in the country” said Khalid Yousif, president of Liverpool’s Egypt Supporters Club in 2019.
Through multiple avenues, Mohamed Salah’s philanthropic work has looked to address some of the economic, social and humanitarian issues that have affected Egypt and his village of Nagrig.
Access to Clean Water & Sanitation
About 7.3 million people did not have access to safe drinking water in Egypt in 2014 and that number has been slowly exponentially increasing annually. Additionally, 8.4 million Egyptians do not have access to sufficient sanitation. Populations in rural areas such as Salah’s native Nagrig are most affected due to a lack of sanitization surfaces and adequate infrastructure to supply water.
Salah sought to address this structural gap through his philanthropic work by buying and donating a 5-acre plot of land worth $450,000 in Nagrig. The donation works toward developing a sewage plant that would provide clean drinking water and sanitation services to the village and neighboring communities in Shabratu and Gharbia.
Egypt’s medical infrastructure has long struggled to meet the needs of its fast-growing population. In 2016, there were 1.5 hospital beds per 1,000 people in Egypt, compared to the global average of 2.7. While this does not take into account the lack of equipment in health care facilities in rural areas including Nagrig, where denizens must travel long hours to Cairo for certain appointments.
In 2018, Salah donated $715,000 to the Baysoun hospital neighboring Nagrig, which worked to renovate ICU units and purchased beds, ventilators and updated Eco and Sonar equipment. In 2019, after a terrorist attack saw part of its building destroyed, Salah donated $3 million to the National Cancer Institute of Cairo.
As the COVID-19 outbreak swept through Egypt in 2020, pushing hospitals and health care services to overcapacity, Salah’s philanthropic work aided on multiple fronts to soften the blow of the pandemic. In April 2020, Salah donated thousands of tons of food to Nagrig in anticipation of the pandemic’s economic impact. Salah’s philanthropic work continued, where during the second outbreak in January 2021, the Mohammad Salah Charity Foundation donated an ambulance center and oxygen cylinders to Nagrig following a severe outbreak.
Access to Education
Access and quality of education in Egypt have long suffered. The Egyptian literacy rate in 2017 was 71.17%, a 1% decline from the year prior and below the world average of 86%. According to UNICEF, “1 in 5 school buildings [are]unfit for use, lacking functional water and sanitation facilities,” with student performance “not even meet[ing]the low benchmark in international learning assessments.”
Salah’s philanthropic work has worked to address these issues. In 2018, the Mohamed Salah Charitable Foundation funded the construction of a girls’ school in Nagrig. Salah also financed the construction of an Al-Azhar Institute in Nagrig, one of more than 4,000 international branches of Egypt’s oldest public university. Testament to his desire to provide education to those without access to it, Salah became an Ambassador for Instant Network Schools (INS) in 2020. INS is a joint venture of the Vodafone Foundation and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) aimed at providing quality education to both refugee and host-country children. Salah joined the INS as they entered Egypt in 2020, and in his ambassadorial role, he has visited schools around the country raising awareness of the need for quality education.
“We must make sure that all young people; including refugees, get an education. Now is the time to make sure refugee students don’t get left behind. And with COVID-19, connected education is extremely important,” Salah said in a statement published by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
A Hero on and off the Pitch
In 2021, Salah received recognition for his philanthropic efforts in his home village of Nagrig and garnered the Laureus Sport for Good Award for Sporting Inspiration. A larger testament to his positive impact is his recent inclusion in the Egyptian public school curriculum as a model citizen for his philanthropic work in helping his own country despite success abroad. Mohammad Salah inspires Egyptians to succeed against their odds while reinvesting his unlikely success into making future generations’ success’ only more likely – a mindset that would serve in all walks of life and positions of influence.
– Majeed Malhas