Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The human cost of Greek crisis: 26% unemployment, 30% below poverty line, 17% can’t feed family, 3.1m no health cover

On a steep, gardenia-scented street in the north-eastern Athens suburb of Gerakas, in one corner of a patch of bare ground, stands a small caravan.
Plastic mesh fencing – orange, of the kind builders use – encloses a neat garden in which peppers, courgettes, lettuces and beans grow in well-tended raised beds. Flowers, too.
The caravan is old, but spotless. It is home to Georgios Karvouniaris, 61, and his sister Barbara, 64, two Greeks for whom all the Brussels wrangling over VAT rates, corporation tax and pension reforms has meant nothing – because they have nothing, no income of any kind.
Next Sunday’s referendum – which, if the country stays solvent that long, will either send Greece back to the negotiating table with its creditors or precipitate its exit from the eurozone – is unlikely to affect them much either.
“I do not see how any of it will change our lives. I have no hope, anyway,” said Georgios, sitting in a scavenged plastic garden chair beneath a parasol liberated from a skip.
After seven years of a crisis that has left 26% of Greece’s workforce unemployed, 30% of its people below the poverty line, 17% unable to meet their daily food needs and 3.1 million without health insurance, it is hard to see how anything decided in Brussels or in Athens in the coming week will do much to change the lives of a large number of Greeks any time soon.
“Those that were already on the margins have been pushed right to the very, very edge, and those who were in the middle have been pushed to the margins,” said Ioanna Pertsinidou of Praksis, a charity that runs day centres for vulnerable people and offers legal and employment advice.
“So many people – ordinary, low-to-middle income people with jobs and homes and their lives on track – have seen their lives go drown the drain so fast,” Pertsinidou said. “People who never dreamed that one day they would not be able to pay their electricity bill, or feed their children properly.”

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