“Humanitarian Crisis” Unfolding In Greek Town: Thousands Unable To Afford Food Or Medicine

By: EW News Desk Team   Date: 1 April 2012

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01 April 2012

The once-thriving Greek port city of Perama – just 14.48km away from the capital of Athens – could be on the verge of a “humanitarian crisis”, said global humanitarian aid organisation Doctors of the World on Friday, as thousands of residents struggle to afford basic human necessities such as food and healthcare.

According to a report by Reuters, the local Doctors of the World agency in Perama has been swamped for months by many of the city’s 25,000 residents, who flock to the centre seeking free healthcare and, more recently, handouts of bread and milk.

“Very soon, and we will need it, we will need the help of other organisations as we are in humanitarian crisis,” said Nikitas Kanakis, President of Doctors of the World Greece, in an interview with Euronews.

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Doctors of the World – an agency more used to aid work in famine or disaster zones – set up its centre in Perama nearly two years ago in order to assist poor immigrants who were coming through the port. However, the centre soon found itself in a strange situation where 80 percent of its patients today are now Greeks.

Perama’s fortunes have faded considerably, following the decline of its once-flourishing shipbuilding industry. With buyers abandoning the city for cheaper options outside Greece, coupled with the country’s spiralling debt crisis, Perama has been plunged into deep economic turmoil; 60 percent of the population are unemployed, nearly triple that of the national average.

"There are some days when we have no bread, or food," said 50-year-old Antonis Giatras, who has been unable to find a steady job for five years. "My young daughter who goes to school is forced to go some days without taking any food with her."

"There are some families that have not had electricity for five, eight months, who spent the winter burning pieces of wood to keep warm and whose children eat from the garbage,” added a representative from Doctors of the World.

A large chunk of the town’s residents now live on less than 200 euros ($270) a month, said the aid organisation. Doctors of the World’s centre in Perama also face difficulty in keeping up with the medical cases coming into the clinic, with many of Perama’s citizens unable to afford a bus ride to the local hospital or even vaccination shots for their children.

“We tell a lot of people that come here: 'Your child needs to go the hospital, we can't treat the problem here,' and they tell us: 'I don't have the 1.40 euros to take the bus and go to the hospital,'" said Liana Maili, a paediatrician at the clinic.

Related: Economically Distressed, Greek Parents Give Up Children

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Living in a one-room shack with a ceiling damaged by water and held together by bits of rope and wood, Sirdoula Firlemi, a 36-year-old mother of a two-month-old baby, now lives in the fear the her electricity will be cut off.

“The bill is up to 1,250 euros. They’ll cut it off. We’ll see. Maybe I’ll get electricity from a neighbour. I can’t leave the baby in the cold,” said Firlemi dejectedly.

“I feel disappointed in the government. I don’t want to vote for anyone. They all tell lies. Now they say they’ll cut the family allowance for people with three children. What’s the point of having kids if they’re going to starve?”

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