11 April 2002
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies says millions of people in Argentina are threatened with hunger and illness as the southern winter approaches. The Red Cross is appealing for more than $1 million to help tens of thousands of the most vulnerable.
The International Red Cross says it has not issued an appeal for Argentina for 10 years. It says it is doing so now because of the unprecedented levels of poverty which will not disappear in the immediate future. Red Cross spokesman, Denis McClean says more than 15 million people are living below the poverty line. He says many of the traditional support structures which formerly took care of the poor have disappeared.
"This includes things like communal soup kitchens which the Red Cross has always supported, but the people in need of these services, their numbers are increasing, particularly among the elderly and those who do not have any support from the state or are unemployed," Mr. McClean said. "And the pressure is such that we decided to put into place the program of social support working with the Argentine Red Cross to meet the most vulnerable, particularly the elderly and small children."
Mr. McClean says the Red Cross obviously can not take care of 15 million people. So, he says it has selected more than 50,000 of the most vulnerable to assist. He says the agency is targeting people who are absolutely destitute and would have no chance of surviving the harsh Argentine winter without help.
"There is no doubt that the country is going through a very serious crisis and elderly people, for example, living on their own who do not have the support of an extended family structure will definitely have difficulty surviving this winter if the Red Cross does not come to their aid with food packages and basic health care," he said.
Mr. McClean notes that Argentina¹s public health system is over stretched. Therefore, he says the Red Cross also will support primary health care services in schools, community centers and centers for senior citizens