NAPLES, ITALY - 13 APRIL 2020: (L-R) Artist and tobacconist Anna Fusco (47) waits for homeless people to come and pick up their daily meals prepared by volunteers in Naples, Italy, on April 13th 2020. Anna Fusco is the owner of the oldest tobacco shop in the heart of Naples. After the lockdown, as her profits dropped 90%, she noticed homeless people wandering the city centre not knowing where to find food. Together with her husband Ciro and her brother-in-law Vincenzo, she started preparing meals to distribute in front of her tobacco shop. In just a few days, dozens of volunteers took part of the initiative. At the time being, they distribute between 80 and 110 meals per day.
Southern Italians are facing a war on two fronts. Italy’s coronavirus epidemic, among the deadliest in the world with nearly 20,000 deaths, exploded in the country’s wealthy north, where it stretched one of Europe’s most sophisticated healthcare systems to the limits and shut down the country’s economic engine. But it is the country’s poorer, less developed south that has loomed over the entire crisis and which figured prominently in the government’s decision to lock down all of Italy last month.
The south is facing economic carnage not seen since the post-war era. The region’s poor, used to scraping by with temporary contracts or off-the-books jobs, are now increasingly dependent on handouts. Scattered, but troubling, reports of unrest at supermarkets puncture the Italian narrative of patriotic sacrifice. And officials are concerned that criminal organizations that have long infiltrated the black market, the health systems and many other facets of southern life are seeking to exploit the crisis by substituting reluctant banks as providers of loans and, in some cases, food.
The existence of the widespread use off-the-books workers in the South’s vibrant “street economy,” meant that the lockdowns hit hard families that had no access to the government’s targeted relief pa