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Red Cross issues first appeal in Spain to help those affected by crisis

Organization wants to provide aid to 300,000 people in dire economic straits

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Red Cross staff hand out parcels at a food bank in Tres Cantos, Madrid. EL PAÍS

The Red Cross is issuing its first ever public appeal in Spain to raise funds to help 300,000 more people in vulnerable situations as a result of the economic crisis.

The international organization is set to use its annual Día de la Banderita (Little Flag Day) this Wednesday - which sees Red Cross employees and volunteers out fundraising on the streets, and people wearing Red Cross badges in support - to launch its Ahora + que nunca (or, Now more than ever) campaign across 30 provinces. The day is one of the most emblematic events in the institution's calendar and one of its main sources of financing.

The video accompanying the appeal is dramatic, featuring empty fridges and a family sharing an omelet made from just one egg, before a Red Cross food parcel arrives. The location is no longer Haiti, but Spain. The announcer tells us that the organization now attends to two million a year, but it wants to widen its projects to include another 300,000. Any amount helps - "Even a euro," the institution says.

"We want people to approach our [fundraising] tables more than ever in order to help us and get to know what we do with their money, something that our volunteers will be delighted to explain," said the NGO's head of fundraising, Teresa Pérez.

The appeal video is dramatic. The location is no longer Haiti, but Spain

As well as the funds it will collect on Wednesday, the Red Cross says it is relying on people's continuing donations to maintain efforts.

The video is not just a sad description of a reality that continues to worsen. The profile of the users of the organization's services has changed: it is now focusing its efforts less and less on immigrants and more and more on Spaniards.

Among the thousands more in "extreme vulnerability" to whom it hopes to provide primary help are families in which every member is out of work, children living in poverty, senior citizens with dependent relatives, the long-term unemployed, the homeless and unemployed youngsters.

The Red Cross highlights that 82 percent of the people it helps live below the poverty line - with an income of under 627.78 euros a month - and 64.86 percent of them are unemployed.

Half of the jobless people it helps have been out of work for over two years and 51 percent do not receive unemployment or minimum income benefit, according to figures taken from the Spanish Red Cross Bulletin on Social Vulnerability, which measures the impact of the crisis on people the organization helps.

The document says that 43.2 percent of those the Red Cross assists are unable to turn on their central heating in winter, while 26.2 percent are unable to afford a protein-based meal of meat or fish a minimum of three times a week.

These figures, the Spanish Red Cross says, display "a new economic reality" in which many Spaniards who until recently found themselves in a secure economic position, have joined those receiving its help as a result of the socioeconomic impact of the crisis.

The Dia de la Banderita, held every October 10 in Spain, is set to be supported by many famous names in sport, film, music and culture, as well as the royal family, says the NGO.

Queen Sofía is the honorary president of the Spanish Red Cross and her relationship with the century-and-a-half-old institution stretches back 40 years. Princess Elena and Princess Leitizia have also offered their support.

 

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