Starting in 1997, Doctors of the World has been providing an array of free medical services through our "Open Polyclinics" across Greece, including in Athens, Thessaloniki, Chania, and Perama. Doctors of the World’s clinics, staffed by volunteer doctors, nurses, psychologists and social workers, provide healthcare and psychological support to 30,000 people, both Greeks and migrants, each year. Click here for the December 2011 New York Times article on our work, and here for the video.
An Economic, and Human, Crisis
Tough austerity measures and a struggling economy have given birth to the 'new poor’, a term used to describe those suffering the impact of social exclusion and rapidly shrinking civic welfare institutions. As the economic crisis tears relentlessly at the social fabric of the country, the plunging living standards have pushed more and more Greeks into poverty.
Today, unemployment is close to 20 percent and many Greeks are now facing the threat of extreme poverty for the first time in their lives. Industries and companies have effectively collapsed over the past two years and many families now live below the poverty line. The homeless have multiplied and gathered en masse in central squares around the country despite the winter chill.
Doctors of the World in Action
During this period, Doctors of the World is witnessing an alarming increase in the number of patients seeking care, and not just from groups most likely to be excluded from care, such as migrants and Roma. In early 2010 only 6 to 7 percent of the beneficiaries were of Greek origin, but in 2011 the amount reached 30 percent. Most of these beneficiaries are elderly citizens who are retired and whose pensions have substantially diminished due to financial austerity measures. Our teams continue to respond to the increase in demand for care - for example, preparations are being made to begin a mobile medical unit to address these needs.