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Wednesday September 4, 2013

Why impoverished Spanish children made a meal of it this summer

While Spain celebrated welcoming a record 7.9 million cheery tourists to the country this July, an increase of 2.9 per cent on the previous year, the summer season wasn’t quite so idyllic for those closer to home.

The summer season often presents Spanish working parents with a bitter-sweet dilemma as their children prepare for almost three months of school holidays. Some enlist relatives, particularly grandparents, to assist with childcare but for those without such an option taking advantage of one of the country’s many day and residential summer camps can prove a Godsend. Naturally these camps carry a price tag which is not a problem if funds are available.

For unemployed parents unable to afford the luxury of a summer camp, keeping children at home can prove hazardous to the health. Many of these impoverished families find there simply isn’t enough food to go round and without the benefit of daily school dinners children are often forced to go without. So severe was the problem this summer that in Andalusia in southern Spain – where there is nearly 36 per cent unemployment – 56 schools opened for the whole period enabling 4,000 pupils to attend classes and receive a wholesome three course daily lunch. In other areas with high unemployment such as the Canary islands and Extramadura 10,000 children were catered for in this way.

The charity UNICEF Spain estimated that in 2011 there were 2.3 million children living in poverty in the country and believes that figure is rising year on year due to the current economic climate. Ironically, according to FRONTUR, the Spanish tourism statistics agency, Spain received 34 million foreign visitors between January and July of this year, making it one of the best years ever in tourism terms. Much as tourism will inevitably boost the coffers and confidence of the country, it’s still not enough to keep the hunger pangs at bay for the thousands living below the poverty line.

Now in September there is more misery for impecunious Spanish parents as they set off to bookshops and department stores to purchase obligatory school text books, stationery and equipment. Although those in dire straits can appeal for funding and assistance from the government, others must find the funds to pay up front and wait to be refunded.

While lucky holidaymakers tucked into paellas and other delicious local dishes this summer, impoverished Spaniards were unable to afford much more than the basics to survive but then the majority of course already had more than enough on their plate.

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