From drug addiction, FGM to psychological help and the infamous sayes, you'll definitely find a hotline for it. But do they actually work?
While Egypt is lacking in many things, one thing you'll be surprised about it not lacking in, is emergency hotlines. You see, emergency numbers aren’t confined to just getting an ambulance or calling the police or the fire department; various governmental authorities and departments in Egypt provide hotlines for nearly everything one may need help with; drug addiction, quitting smoking, mental health, sexual harassment, domestic abuse, drug shortages, etc.
After hearing firsthand about one Egyptian citizen's perceived triumph in calling the governor's office to report garbage strewn across a main road, and to have it actually cleaned up, we couldn’t help but feel that getting in touch with any governmental function to get assistance of any sort shouldn’t have to be a noteworthy feat.
So, in an effort to find out whether or not these numbers actually worked, we simply tried calling twelve Egyptian emergency hotlines from different governmental authorities and here's how it went.
Apart from being an affront to mankind, female genital mutilation is a serious crime, punishable by law to both the person who performed the procedure as well as the parents of the victim. If you happened to know of somebody who has or is planning to commit this horrific act, call 1600 immediately and they’ll be able to help out. Sadly, however, this number doesn’t work, the one that does is 16021 – the same they have for “Family Counseling” – which didn’t have much in the way of counseling either.
That was it, but we got a call the next day from an unknown number, “I’m doctor so-and-so from the family counseling line,” she was asking us to immediately give her any info about the guy so that we could help his daughter out quickly. They also offered to set up an awareness campaign at our workplace, in case FGM was a common occurrence, and they assured us that they'd be waiting to hear back from us.
Quit Smoking Hotline – 16805
We dialed it up on Tuesday, the 30th of January at exactly 4 PM, and it actually picked up pretty quickly. We heard a bunch of recorded talk about the dangers of smoking, and after about a minute, it told us all the lines were busy and that we’d be listening to some more anti-smoking advice until an agent is available. This went on for around six minutes, and after they ran out of advice, everything went quiet. We could almost hear crickets chirping in the background as we waited for somebody to actually talk to. Two days later, we gave it another go. This time, somebody managed to pick up, and he was very courteous and understanding, telling us the same advice we’d heard before and how we should stay away from people that smoke so as not to fall into it. He also told us about the nearest 'quit smoking' clinic situated at the research centre in Dokki, which is open every Sunday and Wednesday.
If you’re thinking about kicking the habit, this line works every day from 8 AM to 8 PM except Friday.
Whether at home, in schools or on the streets, 16000 is the number to dial to report child abuse. After a prerecorded message telling us about other help lines, somebody picked up;
The National Council for Women’s Complaint Hotline
01205575331 – 01121997477 – 01007525600
They get bonus points for providing a number for each cell carrier so your credit doesn’t go kaput, but it’s all for nothing sadly; all three numbers are registered to the National Council for Women on True Caller, however two of them are out of order and the third number is always switched off. We’re not going the extra mile to send them a mini-call either. It’s pretty sad to say the least.
Drug Addiction Hotline – 16023
This was possibly the one we were most curious about. We gave the phone over to somebody who is, let's say, familiar with various substances, so that he'd be able to answer their questions without raising any alarms - assuming they were going to ask anything or if they even picked up. To our surprise, they did and the way they offered help frankly shocked us - in a good way, that is. “There are support and therapy groups available if you’d like to join," they told us, "We can treat you at the nearest hospital or rehabilitation center to your home and we can also send somebody to treat you at home in case you feel the urge to relapse. Give us a call and we’ll be right there.”
Sanitation Hotline – 152
Surely this is simpler than drug addiction, right? We knew of a space that’s routinely used for throwing away garbage; a hotbed of disease and harmful insects near the Kafr Taharmas exit on the ring road. Right across from it is a florist, so we thought it was a perfect opportunity to try out the sanitation hotline. We tried calling, but got no answer, so we tried again at a different time, from both mobile and landlines - still nothing. The number appeared to be wrong, but we did some more digging and found it that it is indeed the correct number. Maybe they're just overworked? We're not going to jump to any conclusions here.
The Ministry of Health’s Complaint Hotline – 16474
We didn’t have much of an idea what kind of complaints the Ministry of Health dealt with, but we found their hotline on the internet for people to call in case of drug and medicine shortages. The operator that picked up gave us the actual drug shortages number – which we’ll be trying – and he told us that it’ll always be available if we run into any shortages or issues at a hospital; if the ER refuses to take you in, or if you encounter any negligence on their end, just like what happened at El Salam hospital in Maadi.
There’s this relatively cheap drug called Midodrine, it used to go for like EGP 11 but then jumped up to 18 during the last inflation wave. Regardless, it’s still a valuable medication for people suffering from hypotension, anemia and so on.
Unfortunately, it’s been in critically low supply lately, and your best bet of finding it is by stumbling upon a pharmacy that has some leftover stock tucked away. So, we decided to call the folks on the Drug Shortages hotline for some advice. The operator told us that it is indeed in short supply throughout the country, and told us about similar alternatives to it, advising us to consult our physician beforehand. “You could also leave us your name and number and we’ll communicate with pharmaceutical companies and get back to you if and when we come up with any results.” Nobody called us after that, but it’s pretty apparent that the Ministry of Health is the most hard at work of the lot.
We're not going to downplay the significance of a service like this; whether you're too depressed to get out of bed, too confused about what's in your head or you're seriously contemplating suicide, you need a helping hand. That's what a line like this should be for, and we had high hopes for it to be functional at the very least. That, however, wasn't the case. If you're hoping to call it from your cellphone then you're out of luck; it only works on landline. And if you're seriously planning to use it, make sure it's before 8 PM because that's when it cuts off. Disappointing to say the very least.
The Emergency Services Hotline – 122
This is the first number that comes to mind when you think 'emergency'. We had almost no doubt that it was fully staffed and ready to take calls whenever, which is why we initially decided not to try it. But luckily (or unluckily), a fight broke out that almost took a more violent turn, and we found ourselves needing to call them anyway. So, we called them and they picked up pretty quickly; after asking us what was happening, where we were and what police department the area happened to be under, they told us help would arrive in no time. An hour went by, then two, then three, and by that time the fight had fizzled out and nobody came. Maybe they forgot about us? Maybe they had too much on their plate? Regardless, we gave them another call later, but they didn’t even pick up. It's every man for himself.
The Family Counseling Hotline – 16021
After the disappointment of finding the National Council for Women’s hotlines not working, we thought we’d try the family counseling hotline. We assumed that they’d be in charge of support callers suffering sexual, emotional or mental issues, or be able to answer legal questions about marriage and counseling. What we found, however, was a 'mother and child' health hotline, which also doubled up as a way to report underage marriage. Though we were caught off-guard, the operator that picked up was surprisingly cooperative and told us that if the child were to get sick, had any questions about breastfeeding or feeding times, or know of any underage marriages, we can give them a call and they’ll act immediately. Pretty nice to know something like this exists here.
It’s just not cool for any random stranger to just say they’re a sayes on any street and start charging people to park without any legal licensing. To that effect, there’s a hotline specifically made for folks to report this kind of shady dealing, calling on citizens to report any incidents on 136. At the time of publishing, however, we got nothing. Maybe they gave up on the whole thing and closed the line.
Written by Fasla Team.
Translated by Ahmed Ikram.