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Greeks who cannot pay for children's vaccinations

Greeks who cannot pay for children's vaccinations
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Perama, on the fringes of the Athens port of Piraeus, is a community on the rocks, as unemployment here is 60 percent. It feels gutted by austerity. Shipbuilding moved out, and 25,000 people were left high and dry.

Things were tough before the debt crisis. Now they are alarming. The local Doctors of the World agency is swamped. People can not afford basic health care, or even food.

Nikitas Kanakis, President of Doctors of the World Greece, said: “Very soon, and we will need it, we will need the help of other organisations as we are in humanitarian crisis, because we are in humanitarian crisis.”

A centre that was set up two years ago helped immigrants then. Today, 80 percent of its patients are Greeks, who have not a penny to spare. Parents without health insurance can not even pay to vaccinate their children. The doctors have not seen that before in Europe.

Paediatrician Liana Maili said: “We tell a lot of people that come here, ‘Your child needs to go to the hospital. We can’t treat the problem here,’ and they tell us ‘I don’t have the one euro 40 to take the bus and go there.’”

The centre doubles as a food bank, to give out bread and milk. Some locals have gone years without work, like this father of three small children.

Antonis Giatras, jobless for five years, said: “Some days, my young daughter goes to school without food. We have a serious problem.”

Living in little more than a shack, the mother of a less than two-month-old baby has no work, and neither does her plumber husband. She is afraid the power company is going to cut off her electricity.

Spiridoula Firlemi said: “The bill is up to 1,250 euros. They’ll cut it off. We’ll see. Maybe I’ll get electricity from a neighbour. I can’t leave the baby in the cold.”

The paediatrician said some families have been without electricity for eight months.

Firlemi said: “I feel disappointed in the government. I don’t want to vote for anyone. They all tell lies. Now they say they’ll cut the family allowance for people with three children. What’s the point of having kids if they’re going to starve?”

Officials in Athens have said Greece is likely to hold snap polls on May 6 to elect a new government.