By Kitty Logan | Posted: 29 June 2012 1803 hrs
ATHENS: The economic crisis in Greece has taken a toll on its people. Ordinary citizens, who were once able to support themselves and their families, are now out of a job and dependent on handouts.
Many in Greece have come to depend on the kindness of others.
A local charity — called ‘Bread and Action’ — lives up to his name. It has help centres all over Athens to feed people and offer support. Volunteers hand out cooked meals and groceries to those in need. Amongst them are people who never imagined they would end up here.
Panagiotis Covas, an unemployed businessman, said: “My business was destroyed. And after this I was forced to live without money. Without enough money to have a normal life.”
Many Greeks share a similar story of jobs lost and their wages, cut.
For those left with little or no income, charity is the only help they are getting.
“I have worked for so many years in my life, but I never expected that at this stage, I wouldn’t get any help. Nothing. What can I hope for? I don’t expect someone to care for me,” said Sarandis, an unemployed butcher.
While Panagiotis is reluctant to take charity, he has no choice as he cannot find a job.
He said: “I’m not a beggar. Why ask? I don’t like to ask. Like this I want to work. I want to take my money and live with my money. In the Europe of 2012, to be a person who has nothing eat is very sad.”
The problem is huge. In the Athens city centre, hundreds line up in the heat for handouts.
These are people who up until recently were able to support themselves and their families. However, many Greeks are now trapped in poverty – one in four is unemployed and there is little state support.
These are just ordinary people from all backgrounds but it is they who are paying the price for the economic turmoil in Greece.
While a new Greek government comes as a relief to world leaders and global markets, it means more hardship for the average Greek as austerity cuts begin to bite even deeper.
A free medical clinic in Athens said that they are seeing increasing numbers of local people who simply cannot afford to see a doctor or buy the basic medicines they need.
That is because those unemployed also lost their health insurance along with their jobs. Overwhelmed by the bills they cannot pay, they have no money left for medicine. To complicate matters, the economic crisis means that drugs companies have not been paid by insurers and pharmacies no longer dispense medication on credit.
Aspasia Michalaki, a medical doctor, said: “We see all kinds of medical problems of Greek people, either chronic illnesses or that they need their medication. Some of them have stopped taking the medicine because they don’t have money to buy (it).”
The strained Greek state has no means to step in but doctors want the government to guarantee at least basic medical care for those affected by the crisis.
“It is definitely very urgent for people to feel safe at least for their health, that they can be treated in public hospitals and that they can have medication for their diseases,” added Dr Michalaki.
The EU bailout terms will mean yet more cuts have to be made to state funding and so Greeks are likely to become increasingly dependent on charity.
It could be a long wait until this crisis is resolved and life gets even a little bit better. Until then, people here will continue to struggle with the most basic needs.
Image from: rethymnoguide.gr