The best account we’ve seen to date of the ghastly cost of austerity in Greece comes from Talos, who blogs at Histologion.
Here’s the opening. We urge you to read the rest:
As the Euro crisis unfolds, and the European social model remains under attack by the mindless political armies of orthodox neoliberalism, spread across the continent in positions of power, and the bankers they represent, all is hardly well in Greece. The Greeks, having served as lab-rats for extreme-austerity, have come to realize one thing: Austerity is not a fiscal programme. It is a political project: a project of societal and financial sabotage, aiming at a radical upwards redistribution of wealth in an already very unequal country – indeed a whole continent. This is how the austeritarian disaster zone looks like from the ground:
–Back to the Caves: “Dozens of homeless people in Athens will spend the Christmas holidays in the sheltering caves of Philopappou Hill, away from the rain and the cold weather.
According to two reports conducted by the Ministry of Health and the Municipality of Athens and published by Real News, there are many new age homeless, who once were businessmen and traders, and are now penniless, lying on the streets. The shocking truth is that among those people there are families as well.”
–Homeless in Athens: Meet the new homeless. With an average age of 47, 11% of Greece’s homeless have a university degree (!) and 23.5% hold a high school diploma, while only 9.3% are illiterate. The new Greek homeless class members have laptops and iPhones, remnants of their “old” lives. “They come to us in suits with their laptops in hand. These citizens a couple of months ago had ordinary lives. They had a job, a home and car,” says Nikitas Kanakis, the head of Doctors Without Borders in Athens. Counselors from the Department of Homeless Services describe a similar situation. “We even have homeless from suburbs like Kifisia and Voula [upper class suburbs of Athens]! They come here with their laptops and expensive smart phones they once used for their work, shocked and depressed”.
–Hunger: Athens Mayor George Kaminis told the daily that the city’s homeless had increased by around 20 per cent while queues at soup kitchens organised by municipal and church organisations were up 15 per cent.”Care workers no longer meet typical homeless people, they meet a person who likely had a perfectly organised life weeks previously,” said Kaminis, who has asked for additional state funding for city welfare services.”We have noticed a dramatic increase in our mess halls over the recent period,” added Chrysostomos Symeonidis, head of the Athens archdiocese poverty fund. “We distribute over 10,000 meals on a daily basis and 250,000 meals are given out nationwide on a weekly basis,” Symeonidis said… [oh and Starvation Recipes are all the rage]
-…hunger in the schools: “Our pupils faint due to starvation. We see our pupils coming to school with holes in their shoes. They don’t even have money to buy food from the school canteen”
-Which then leads to abandoned children: ‘Propelled by poverty, 500 families had recently asked to place children in homes run by the charity SOS Children’s Villages, according to the Greek daily Kathimerini. One toddler was left at the nursery she attended with a note that read: “I will not return to get Anna. I don’t have any money, I can’t bring her up. Sorry. Her mother.”‘
–The disabled are also victims of the policies pursued: “In August, a five-year-old program providing deaf people with interpreters was suspended after the government abruptly cut its funding to less than half. Overnight, 15,000 deaf people around Greece were left without help to report a crime to the police, rent a house or go to a job interview. Funding cuts have opened up gaps across welfare services, with slashed services and longer waiting times for vulnerable groups including the blind, recovering organ-transplant patients, autistic children, and paraplegics in need of physiotherapy”
-At the same time the already decrepit health system is further eroded according to The Lancet: “Overall, the picture of health in Greece is concerning. It reminds us that, in an effort to finance debts, ordinary people are paying the ultimate price: losing access to care and preventive services, facing higher risks of HIV and sexually transmitted diseases, and in the worst cases losing their lives. Greater attention to health and health-care access is needed to ensure that the Greek crisis does not undermine the ultimate source of the country’s wealth—its people”. Giving birth is now a luxury activity. I suppose women are expected to give birth at home by themselves – a great way to bring infant and maternal mortality to truly third world levels…
-And, desperate, people kill themselves at an unprecedented rate: “Greece’s suicide rate has reached a pan-European record high, with experts attributing the rise to the country’s economic crisis and painful austerity measures. Statistics from the Greek Ministry of Health show a 40 per cent rise in those taking their own lives between January and May this year compared with the same period in 2010″