Humanitarian Crisis in Greece under development
and a call for Diaspora Greeks to come in aid
By Alexander Mizan, Jun 21, 2012
With the Greek elections come and gone and out of the mainstream media, our attention is turned back to the developing humanitarian crisis in Greece, which in most likelihood will continue to develop as long as the indiscriminate policies of austerity continue.
In a very short period of time, Greece went from a country with what seemed to be a very solid social protection net (public health, generous pensions, free hospitals, free education) to one where the majority of the average citizen is left with no social protections whatsoever.
LACK OF ABILITY TO BUY FOOD
Viewing the video, one can see a growing crowd of people stand around at Pedion Areos Park in Athens where a makeshift free distribution of agricultural products from Crete takes off. It is shameful, but Greece has become a society that has literally been brought to its knees, and it simply is untrue to suggest that anything like this amount of blame should be attached to the ordinary citizen.
INABILITY OF PEOPLE TO PROCURE MEDICINES & GET TREATED AT HOSPITALS
The Medical Association of Athens appealed to the UN, emphasizing that ‘thousand of Greek patients are in a dramatic situation, and hospitals are currently unable to meet pharmaceutical care needs because of a default by one of the biggest insurers.
Greece imports most of its medicines and in several cases due to the crisis, credit to importers has been curtailed or cut off by abroad. This creates a cash crunch, where the flow of medicines stops. Concurrently, the Greek Govt. owes millions to Pharmacies in the form of insurance reimbursements that it cannot pay because of its low cash position. This problem is crippling our society, especially the elderly population. The situation is even more dramatic for tens of thousands of citizens who are battling with serious diseases such as cancer and the few pharmacies that are still serving people are experiencing long lines.
WHAT CAN DIASPORA GREEKS DO TO HELP?
There are several ways the Greeks in Diaspora can help alleviate the situation in Greece. Here are a few:
Send direct aid via the several Greek and Orthodox organizations that are fundraising for this purpose. In the United States, The American Hellenic Council, through its 501(c)3 charitable fund has setup as special fund to collect aid, monetary and in-kind donations for Greece. Read more details on this initiative and contribute here!
Buy Greek Products.According to US Census data from 2008, there are currently 1,351,000 people in the US that speak Greek at home. If we count them all as people of Greek Ancestry and we don't count anyone else and if each person buys an additional $1000 worth of Greek products per year, then Greece can increase its exports by as much as $1.3 billion. Greece is famous for its high-quality food exports. Similarly if Greeks in Greece choose to buy Greek-made products at the same rate, the current account deficit will be reduced by up to 11 billion dollars. Read more details here.
Visit Greece & Encourage others to do so. International arrivals at Greek airports fell 5.1 percent in the first five months of 2012 according to the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises. The image of the country abroad has been marred by the ongoing financial and political news coverage. That said, we all know the beauties of Greece, its gifted landscape, sea and sun. Tourism is one of the major contributors to Greek GDP and supporting its expansion will help the average Greek person working in the industry.
Direct Investment in Greece. Foreign Direct Investment in Greece has been declining due to Greece's uncompetitive position caused by its burdensome bureaucracy and lack of market transparency.
We acknowledge that it is a necessity for Greece to implement extensive structural reforms in its economy in order to attract FDI. However, there are still sectors in Greece (e.g. tourism, energy), where investment can be profitable if done the right way. In addition, the EU has earmarked additional funds to support productive investments made in Greece. The country also has enormous human resource potential.
One of the most sustainable contributions in the long run that the Diaspora could do for the Greek people is investing directly into the country and its potential. Done the right way, this can become a win-win proposition. One of our largest sponsors, Earth Friendly Products, has recently announced their investment in the island of Crete. EFP CEO Van Vlahakis, a self-made millionaire whose life is featured in the recent movie "A Green Story", who was born in Crete and immigrated to the United States at a young age feels that it's important to give back and support. The investors can make productive investments in a place they have an emotional connection with and the Greek people can be helped by the effort to jump start sustainable, productive investments.