New Red Cross Red Crescent report warns the impact of Europe’s ‘worst humanitarian crisis’ in 60 years could be felt for decades

Rome/Geneva: 10 October 2013: With many European countries still in the grip of the economic crisis, a new report from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) today reveals that the humanitarian impact could be felt for decades to come.
A recent survey which mapped the responses of 42 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to the crisis shows that millions have fallen into poverty and that, despite an upturn in the economy in a few countries, many people continue to suffer: It can take years for those affected to re-establish their livelihoods following such a collapse.
“Europe is facing its worst humanitarian crisis in six decades,” said IFRC Secretary General Bekele Geleta. “Millions of people’s lives have been thrown into turmoil over the past five years and there seems to be a gradual degradation, with many existing on a day-to-day basis, having no savings and no buffer to withstand unforeseen expenses.”
The results of the mapping are worrying. The number of people receiving food aid from National Societies in 22 European countries has increased by 75 per cent within the past three years, from 2 to 3.5 million. In Latvia – now officially out of the crisis – food aid has more than trebled.
“We see the same trend across Europe, not only in those countries usually associated with the crisis. In France more than 350,000 people have fallen into poverty in recent years, and a vast number of our member National Societies report an increasing number of poor people and about a new vulnerable group – the ‘working poor’. These are people who have a job but struggle to make ends meet at the end of the month,” says Geleta. “Many National Societies have increased their domestic assistance to help people in their own countries. These include countries in western Europe that have traditionally focused more on international assistance.”
The humanitarian impact of the crisis is also being felt through an increasing volume of people coming to Red Cross or Red Crescent clinics and social centres asking for treatment, financial assistance to buy medicines or help to fill in forms for benefits. More National Societies have also begun offering job training courses.
“While we fully understand that governments need to save money, we strongly advise against indiscriminate cuts in public health and social welfare, as it may cost more in the long run,” said Geleta.
Together with the report, the IFRC is today launching a public-awareness campaign under the slogan of ‘Think Differently’.
“We do not have all the answers but we encourage all stakeholders – including ourselves – to think of new, different and creative ways to deal with the crisis. While we all hope this will end soon, we need to face reality and take action, so that this humanitarian crisis does not turn into a social and moral crisis for Europe,” said Anitta Underlin, IFRC Director for Europe.
The report on the economic crisis is being launched in Italy, one of the countries worst-hit by the crisis.
Dr. Francesco Rocca, President of the Italian Red Cross, said the organization was working with those affected by the crisis in the margins of society. “The economic crisis makes it challenging to raise funds, yet during the past year we still managed to almost double the number of people we help and we now support 400,000 families in need,” he said.