Crisis: Greece, more than 400,000 children hungry

Says Unicef, malnutrition putting development at risk

06 April, 13:13

(ANSAmed) - ATHENS, APRIL 6 - The serious economic crisis that has gripped Greece for the last four years could have serious repercussions for even the youngest swathes of the population. The physical and psychological development of youngsters in the country is at risk because of malnutrition caused by poverty, and so, therefore is their very future. The alarm has been raised in a report on the situation of young people in Greece drafted by Unicef's Greek committee and by the University of Athens. The report, entitled "The condition of youth in Greece, 2012" says that 439,000 children in the country are currently living below the poverty line - underfed and in insalubrious conditions - in families that represent 20.1% of Greek households.

The poverty threshold takes in to consideration the minimum income that a family of four people must earn every month in order to pay for accommodation and basic requirements such as food, transport, clothing and education. Of this fifth of Greek families, 21.6% have a diet that is lacking in animal protein, 37.1% do not have adequate heating in their homes, 27.8% live in damp or excessively dry conditions and 23.3% in what are defined "poor environmental conditions". Although official estimates suggest that 21% of Greeks live in poverty, and therefore have a monthly income below 470 euros per month, the real level has already reached (and perhaps exceeded) 25%, meaning that one in four Greeks is poor. In other words, out of 11.2 million Greeks, 2.8 million do not have enough money with which to live.

A study by the Greek network for the fight against poverty (EAPN), however, says that the continuing crisis means that Greece could soon mean that 30% of the population live below the poverty line. The figure was recently confirmed by a study by Foundation for economic and industrial research (IOBE). The national statistics institute (Elstat) says that in recent months, more than 400,000 families have had no income as none of the members of the family have been working, while over 60,000 families have turned to courts, asking for their debts to be regulated as they are no longer able to cover them, even in installments.

The report also cites a number of cases of children fainting in class because of malnutrition. These cases were given significant media coverage in December when the director of the Athens orphanage, Maria Iliopoulou, complained that around 200 cases of malnourished newborns had been registered in the space of a few weeks because their parents had been unable to feed them appropriately. Iliopoulou also claimed that teachers from schools close to her institution would queue up every day for a plate of food for their neediest pupils. "In many schools in Athens the situation is even more dramatic," Iliopoulou said at the time, "because some children have fainted from hunger in classrooms". The Ministry of Public Education, which initially dismissed the claims as "propaganda", was forced to recognise the seriousness of the problem and subsequently decided to hand out to pupils from the poorest families meal vouchers with which to buy breakfast from the school canteen. The Unicef report ends with an estimate from the Ombudsman for children, who says that there are around 100,000 minors working in Greece to contribute to the meagre and often non-existent family budget. (ANSAmed).

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