• The Spanish Red Cross aims to help feed more than 2 million people in Spain in 2013 (Photo: AntarticoNorte)

Red Cross to feed hungry Spanish people

10.10.12 @ 09:28

  1. By Nikolaj Nielsen
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BRUSSELS - The Spanish Red Cross has turned its focus away from war-ravaged conflict zones to help destitute people in Spain hit by EU-imposed austerity measures.

"More people than you could imagine need help in our country. Support the Red Cross," its new slogan says.

The charity on Wednesday (10 October) launched a food drive it hopes will ease problems among the most vulnerable Spanish residents.

The day marks the country's annual "Dia de la banderita" or day of the small flag, where people typically turn out to give to those in need elsewhere in the world.

But for the first time in its 100-year history, Red Cross donations will be handed over to Spaniards instead.

Hundreds of volunteers will take to the streets in 30 different cities to collect funds.

The organisation hopes to receive at least €30 million. The money, it says, will help fill the empty stomachs of some 2.3 million Spaniards and immigrants next year.

The Red Cross already helped feed some 2 million Spaniards and immigrants in 2012. It distributed almost 7,000 tonnes of food in September alone.

It says that entire families are without jobs and more children than ever are living in poor households. Homelessness and lack of job prospects for young people have caused an increased sense of insecurity and poor self-esteem.

The organisation also says 82 percent of those who rely on social welfare live below the poverty line.

Of those, another 65 percent are without work, with many no longer receiving any unemployment benefit. Some have been without work for more than two years.

Eurostat, the EU statistical office, says over 24 percent of the Spanish population has no jobs. The rate is higher than any other EU member states and is likely to increase, says the Spanish Red Cross.

The campaign comes amid growing doubts over Spain's ability to reign in its sovereign debt.

Elsewhere, bailed-out governments are struggling to compensate between structural reforms and its effects on ordinary people.

Madrid has up until now rebuked any need for a full-blown bailout but rising borrowing costs and banks still exposed to toxic debts may force its hand.

Meanwhile, the anti-austerity protests in the country are gathering pace.