SALERNO, ITALY - 11 MAY 2020: Antonella Maresca, a 54 years old part-time cleaning lady and care giver now relying on food handouts from the charity "L'Abbraccio" (Italian for The Hug), poses for a portrait at the charity headquarters in Salerno, Italy, on May 11th 2020.
L'Abbraccio is a charity which has focused on assisting the newly poor since the 2008 financial crisis.
In less than two months, the number of families who have turned to L’Abbraccio to feed themselves has jumped from 160 families to over 500.
“They are not people who live in extreme poverty, but people who have found themselves poor because of the economic crisis,” says the heady of the charity Matteo Marzana. They include swathes of the population employed off the books and thus largely excluded from the state’s welfare safety net.
The coronavirus pandemic has precipitated one of the worst economic downturns in generations across the world. But few major economies are likely to suffer as much as Italy’s, or take longer to recover.
The health emergency has already left hundreds of thousands of Italians unable to pay for their own food for the first time. Experts warn that the poverty crisis is only just beginning, and that many of those who abruptly plunged into poverty may never be able to lift themselves out of it – even once the pandemic is over. Italy, more than its Western European neighbors, is ill-prepared to deal with a crisis of this magnitude. Its big problem is that its economy never really recovered from the 2008 financial crisis, leaving families poorer and the government much more indebted today than it was then.
CREDIT: Gianni Cipriano for The Wall Street Journal