In This Review

Paradoxes of Care: Children and Global Medical Aid in Egypt
Paradoxes of Care: Children and Global Medical Aid in Egypt
By Rania Kassab Sweis
Stanford University Press, 2021, 208 pp.

In its detailed ethnography of three nongovernmental organizations dedicated to providing medical care and health services to Egyptian children—street kids in Cairo, young girls in rural areas, and children at risk of abuse or in detention all over the country—Sweis illuminates both the global humanitarian industry and the lives of children in Egypt. Many of the employees of the organizations, both foreign and Egyptian, know full well that their day-to-day interventions are little more than stopgap measures; they are unable to cure the social ills they see around them and instead settle for alleviating individual suffering. In doing so, as Sweis reveals, they find that the humanitarian conception of such children as innocent, vulnerable, endangered, and deprived of a “universal youthfulness” is tested; the children these health workers treat are often far more knowing, sturdy, and self-confident than the adults around them. At least as important as creating mobile medical clinics or offering classes on healthy lifestyles, Sweis suggests, is addressing the poverty that devastates parents and children alike.