Some of those suffering most in Greece’s economic crisis are those still too young to be counted in the ranks of the 21 percent unemployed — its children. Hospitals, required to cut their budgets under the government’s austerity measures, have been getting tough, sometimes very tough, on patients who are not entitled to free healthcare. Some women have not been allowed to take their babies home after giving birth, the BBC reports:
When the Athens maternity hospital where Anna gave birth asked her to pay for the costs of her Caesarean section, she told them she did not have the 1,200 euros (£970, $1,500) they wanted.
They responded, she says, by threatening to keep hold of her baby until she paid the full amount.
Doctor Katerina Stypsanelli, a member of Women Against the Debt which campaigns against government-imposed austerity measures that affect women, was able to help Anna arrange to pay for the delivery of her baby in installments.
The Greek state provides non-emergency healthcare free for those who are employed and making regular insurance contributions; if you are unemployed, healthcare is provided if you are up-to-date with your tax payments. But with new “solidarity” taxes introduced each month, more and more people are falling below the poverty line. Nikitas Kanakis, the director of the charity Medicins Du Monde in Greece, says that as much as a quarter of the population can no longer afford healthcare.
The Greek government has cut healthcare spending by 13 percent over the past two years, at the same time as demand for public health facilities has risen by 30 percent, as the middle class is no longer able to pay for private healthcare.
Greece’s children are more than aware of how the economic crisis is affect their lives. The newspaper Kathimerini says that a survey by an organization for youth has found that 90 percent of Greek children think the crisis is seriously affecting their lives; 29 percent says their families are considering emigrating; 70 percent describe negative changes in their living standards; 20 percent say their parents have lost their jobs; 82 percent say the crisis has had a negative effect on their parents’ employment.
54 percent of Greece’s young people are unemployed: The future for these young children is gloomy indeed. At a summit meeting earlier this week in Brussels, European leaders reiterated that they want Greece to remain in the euro zone. Polls indicate that the majority of Greeks, fearing disaster if the country is forced to return to using the drachma, wish to do so. Many were shocked that the leftwing party Syriza came in second place in the May 6th election on a platform of rejecting the austerity measures that European leaders and the International Monetary Fund have demanded. But the fears expressed by Greece’s children show too clearly the toll of the economic crisis and the austerity measures on their young lives.
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