By Judith Orr
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2375

‘Quiet desperation’ is stalking Europe, says new survey of austerity

This article is over 8 years, 3 months old
Issue 2375

The Red Cross has announced it will set up a national emergency programme for people in Britain struggling to survive through the winter. This is the first time it has done this since the Second World War. It will send volunteers into supermarkets to collect food donations to supply food banks across the country. 

Around half a million people relied on food banks in Britain in the last year and the number keeps rising. The Tories’ austerity has driven millions into poverty. But they want to blame poor people. 

Take Tory minister and millionaire Michael Gove. He declared that people’s reliance on food banks is because of their own decisions and inability “to manage their finances”.


But the decisions many people will have to make this winter are between spending the little they have on feeding their family or on heating their home. The latest announcement that fuel bills are set to rise by 8 percent means that some will no longer be able to do both.

The Red Cross describes the impact of austerity as creating “quiet desperation” among those suffering the most in a new report also published this week. This vast survey carried out with Red Crescent, looked at 28 countries of the European Union (EU) plus 14 more in the Balkans, eastern Europe, and central Asia. 

It exposes the shocking deterioration in living standards for millions, and the terrible human cost in the worst hit countries. For some the only alternative is to emigrate in search of a better life. Some 13 percent of the population of Baltic states and Hungary have left because of the economic crisis. Others are more desperate still. The suicide rate for women has doubled in Greece.

There are over 26 million unemployed in the EU. The number of people who have been unemployed for over a year has doubled in the last five years to 11 million. In a quarter of the countries youth unemployment ranged between 33 percent and 60 percent.


As many as 43 million people across Europe don’t get enough to eat each day and 120 million are at risk of poverty. In 22 of the 26 countries the Red Cross studied, they found dependence on their food distribution programmes had increased by 75 percent between 2009 and 2012.

For example in Milan they report that currently as many as 50,000 people receive food aid. People need the basics—rice, pasta, cheese, milk and grain. The report calls on governments to stop the indiscriminate cuts in health and social service budgets. 

But politicians are well aware of the impact of their policies. The mass strikes and protests seen in Greece and elsewhere in Europe are the alternative to the “quiet desperation” of poverty and despair. 


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