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Greek austerity bites: Children orphaned by crisis

As the Greek government prepares new austerity packages demanded by EU creditors, Greece sees its younger generation feel the sting of economic upheaval. Parents are being increasingly forced to abandon their children, unable to support them.

Following a meeting this week, the Troika – the European Central Bank (ECB), European Commission (EC) and International Monetary Fund – is upping the pressure on Greece’s coalition government to introduce more cuts to qualify for another bailout.

Recent cuts to social benefits and state institutions have sparked public outrage and led to mass protests over worsening situation in the country. The new budget plans will see 7 billion euro (US$9 billion) worth of cuts in 2013, largely targeting public employees’ wage packets and public services.

The austerity itself is biting increasingly hard, with increasing numbers of children being offloaded by parents into orphanages.

“During the past two years we have seen a large rise in the number of children coming to us because their families can't support them. As taxes and prices have risen, things like food, clothing, schooling and housing have become too expensive,” Akis Drepanidis, director of SOS Children's Village in Plagiari told RT. He said that there has been a 70 per cent increase for help in 2012.

SOS says that during 2011 it received between 700 and 800 requests for families in need of help and almost 100 per cent of them were due to economic plight, where before the principal cause for referral was abuse.

Drepanidis described how the orphanages were also being forces to make cut-backs because of the influx of referrals and the drop in donations.

“People give what they can, but that is getting less and less. Also we are taxed on what we receive, making it more of a burden to buy things we need like fuel for heating,” he told RT.

‘Never to be reunited’

A Greek mother who was forced to give up her daughter when she was laid off spoke to RT about the emotional upheaval of abandoning her child.

“It was an awful decision to have to make, but what could I do? There was no money and no work,” she said. The mother told RT that it was unlikely that they would ever be united again as a family, because “things are going from bad to worse here, it could be 10 years before Greece is back on its feet.”

She currently sees her daughter only once a month in the SOS orphanage where she is housed.

The social footprint of austerity has been felt throughout Greek society with communal soup kitchens now providing 8,000 people a day with meals in Athens and doctors patients increasingly expected to finance consultations and medication.

The Hellenic Statistical Authority put unemployment in the first quarter of the year at over 22 per cent and climbing, and a recession of 3.8 per cent is predicted for 2013, meaning the Greek economy will be one quarter of its size at the beginning of the crisis six years ago.

The austerity measures already taken by the Greek government have thus far had no effect on the size of public debt. The Greek Ministry of Finance has predicted that national debt will rise to 179.3 percent of GDP as the government work to implement a new set of cuts.

Greece began receiving bailouts in May 2010 and has so far been unable to pull itself out of the economic quagmire, even with billions of euro of EU funds. In September the Greek government applied to the EU for a two-year extension on the bailout program, equating to 13.5 billion euro ($16 billion).