Greece:a grey Christmas marked by anger and misery

One person in four below poverty threshold

19 December, 16:48

(by Demetrio Manolitsakis) (ANSAmed) - ATHENS, DECEMBER 19 - Just a few days short of Christmas and Greece is in deepest recession. You gets the impression of an atmosphere of anger and misery wherever you turn, reminding some senior members of the population of scenes from the Second World War and German occupation of the country.

There is poverty, a daily struggle for survival and misery. According to data released by Greece's National Confederation for Commerce, households have been plunged into a situation that appeared to be unthinkable just a few months ago. Nine Greeks out of ten have cancelled all expenditure on clothing and footwear; eight out of ten have stopped spending on leisure activities and one Greek in four says that their money will not cover the purchase of basic food items. Only one in four is trying to save money in view of the uncertain economic outlook.

And still, one citizen in four lives under the poverty line, one on the edge of this line and two out of four have to draw on their savings in order to survive. In any case, the Confederation says, this lack of liquidity on the market could lead to the disappearance of small and medium-sized businesses. According to statistical agency Elstat, over 400,000 households are without any income as none of their components is in work, while more than 60,000 households are applying to courts to have themselves declared bankrupt as they are no longer even able to make installation payments. The number of poor people making use of communal canteens set up by the Greek Orthodox Church has recently risen to 20,000, according to Maria Iliopoulou, the director of an orphanage in Athens. Speaking on the website, Ms Iliopoulou stated that over past weeks, "two hundred cases of undernourished newborns have been reported, as their parents are not able to offer them sufficient food," while teachers at schools around the institute directed by her stand in queues to obtain a plate of food for their pupils who would otherwise go without a meal. Also primary school teachers working for Athens City Council, Ms Iliopoulou says, ''are asking as for meals for their pupils who don't have anything to eat, while in many schools the situation is even worse, as some children have fainted during lessons as they were undernourished. Speaking about the situation experienced by many of the pupils at the capital city's schools, Athens' primary school teachers' association has denounced the case of a father who committed suicide as he was no longer able to care for his three young children. The Education Ministry, which started off by calling this a case of "propaganda", has now been forced to recognise the gravity of the situation. They have therefore resolved to distribute luncheon vouchers to children from poorer families with which they can purchase meals in school canteens.

As some teachers said in an interview to the daily paper To Vima, the problem of malnutrition exists and it is easier to spot in full-time schools: "A lot of children arrive at school without any lunch packs and say they forgot them at home because they are ashamed to admit the truth". And there is no shortage of cases of patients not wanting to leave hospital even after being cured as they have nowhere to go and sleep.


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