Number of Spaniards seeking aid more than doubled: charity

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The number of people receiving food, clothes and financial aid in Spain from the charity Caritas has more than doubled since before the country was battered by an economic crisis, it said Thursday.

The Spanish branch of the international Catholic charity said it provided aid to 950,001 people last year, a 20.8 percent jump from the 786,273 in 2009 and up from around 400,000 in 2007 just before the economy tanked.

Help with food and paying the mortgage or rent were the most sought after forms of aid, the secretary general of the charity, Sebastian Mora, told a news conference.

Thirty percent were knocking on Caritas' door for the first time in their lives and, while in previous years it was mostly immigrants who got help, last year the recipients were evenly split between foreigners and nationals.

"The profile of those getting aid has also become much younger," said Mora.

"There are situations where two or three families are sharing an apartment, of families living in a single room, of families living without water for over a year."

Caritas spent 35.7 million euros ($49 million) on providing emergency aid in 2010 to people struggling to make ends meet in Spain, a 14.4 percent rise over the previous year.

The vast majority of the money, 88.7 percent, came from private donations with the rest coming from the government.

The Spanish economy slumped into recession during the second half of 2008 as the global financial meltdown compounded the collapse of a property bubble. It stabilised in 2010 but growth remains anaemic.

Economic output grew 0.2 percent in the second quarter from the previous three months, after a revised 0.4-percent expansion in the first quarter.

The crisis has sent unemployment soaring to just under 21 percent, the highest level among industrialised nations.

© 2011 AFP

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