One-quarter of Greek children suffering from poverty

Recession and austerity policies have put Greek children’s welfare at risk

One-quarter of Greek children suffering from poverty

World Bulletin / News Desk

One in four children in Greece suffers from poverty, says the latest UNICEF annual report "The State of Children in Greece 2016 - Children at Risk."

According to the report, child poverty rose from 22.3 to 25.3 percent between 2010 and 2014. During the same period, a Greek family’s monthly average expenditures dropped sharply from €2,359 ($2,680) to €1,551 ($1,762).

Similarly, more than 26 percent of Greek families suffered from severe material deprivation in 2015. The level of material deprivation reflects economic weakness in terms of the acquisition of goods desirable or necessary for a fulfilling life. It refers to families’ inability to pay for at least four of nine goods and services, including rent, electricity, water, heating, meat, holiday, TVs, cars, and phone bills.

The level of severe material deprivation has worsened for all household types since 2011 and reached the dramatic 36.6 percentage among single parents in 2015 and 31.3 percent in large families.

UNICEF’S annual fundraising marathon took place on Tuesday with the support of the majority of the Greek media throughout the day.

Constant recession and austerity policies in recent years have upset families’ stability, putting children’s welfare at risk. The latest Eurostat data show that Greek GDP has fallen one-quarter since 2008 and unemployment has risen dramatically to 27 percent.

In the meantime, the cash-strapped state offers no more than a social security benefit to large families -- something offered after a thorough check of resources -- though some NGOs try to fill the gaps. The “SOS Children’s Villages” in Greece’s initial activity was sheltering abused or neglected children in three villages, one in Athens and two in northern Greece.

The organization currently hosts 250 children in families of five members. “In 2011, people started coming to the SOS villages asking for help, but these were not cases of abuse or neglect,” says Stergios Sifnios, the group’s director of social work and research. “These were families that had difficulties due to the economic crisis.” He added, “Since then we have set in motion eight daily centers where families are supported in terms of food, counselling, and educational services.”

More than 2,000 people have reached out for help so far. Panagiotis Pardalis is a spokesperson for “The Smile of the Child” NGO, which has also dedicated its resources to fulfilling the needs of abused and neglected children for 20 years. “We currently take care of 360 children in our 11 facilities but there has been a growing need to attend to financially strained families’ needs,” says Pardalis.

“There was violence and abuse before, but the crisis has definitely brought more pressure, putting children at greater risk,” he adds. At any of the three daily centers that operate in Greece under this organization’s care, families can find food, medical and psychological support, and educational resources for children.

“In these cases, people don’t give up their children. So we are trying to ensure that families don’t fall apart due to lack of support,” Pardalis adds. Apart from the economic crisis, the refugee influx from war zones that has reached the country in the last two years has brought issues like refugee rights and the welfare of unaccompanied minors.

According to the latest report of the Greek National Social Solidarity Center (GNSSC), last year there were 2,248 requests for shelter for unaccompanied minors from Greek authorities and NGOs.

More than 95 percent of the minors are boys, and fewer than 6 percent are under 12 years old. Minors have to wait 13 days on average in "custody" or homeless, facing various risks, before they are moved to an official shelter. The average stay of minors at the shelters is almost 32 days. According to the UNCHR, cited in the UNICEF report, minors chafe at the length of the reunification process, which may last several months, and they frequently leave the shelters to try to reach their families on their own. This leads to re-arrests, more exposure to risks, and reactivation of the sheltering process.

Apart from sheltering, Greek Education Minister Nikos Phillis last month presented an action plan under which basic educational skills and psychosocial support will be provided to refugee children and immigrants during their stay in the country along with tutoring in a European language.

The cost of the dramatic change in children’s welfare is twofold. It affects individuals’ current welfare and prospects and at the same time the society as a whole due to the failure to marshal the potential and talents of children from affected families. UNICEF’S report stresses the need for a child-centered fiscal policy and the improvement of the guardianship system for unaccompanied minors and minors separated from their families in order to become operational, effective, and efficient.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Nisan 2016, 10:41