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Economics: Red Cross Getting Tired of Carrying Austerity Fallout

• January 31, 2013 • 9:10 AM

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A tricky word, “developed.”

It’s hard to find much silver lining in Europe’s now-five-year-long economic collapse. But: at least could shift how what it means to be a “rich” or “poor” country. The trusty Voice of America reports today that the Red Cross, which first began as a stretcher-bearer’s service on European battlefields, is now having trouble answering all the requests for basic needs from austerity-wracked European populations. Including such notable trouble spots as…Copenhagen?

According to the Red Cross numbers, local chapters in Denmark, which tracked Christmas handouts since 2009, faced a 100 percent increase in people seeking assistance for basic needs like food and shelter. In Lithuania the number of people seeking services from the Red Cross rose more than threefold, from 30,000 people to 100,000. A Red Cross director in Spain noted that for the first time in the national chapter’s history, it wasn’t aiding poor people elsewhere, but Spaniards. Per VOA:

“It is the first time ever,” she said. “They normally collect money to send to Africa and to Asia or to vulnerable people elsewhere. For the first time, the crisis is so high in Spain that they decided to aim at their own country.”

The Italian Red Cross is claiming a wave of “new poor” among divorcees, notably men, who have jobs but can’t pay for new housing after leaving a spouse:

Divorce is a common cause of homelessness, with many men continuing to work, but sleeping in the Terminal of the Linate Airport. They arrive at night, well-dressed, with a suitcase containing their belongings. They sleep on the armchairs, keep warm in the lounges and have access to water for washing in the toilets. The morning after, they head into work as if nothing happened.

The same report said the local chapter of the charity distributes 50,000 meals per month in Milan, reaching only one in three of the 150,000 it believes require assistance.

Marc Herman
Marc Herman is a writer in Barcelona. He is the author of The Shores of Tripoli.

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