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Greek Debt Crisis Kills

Feb. 21, 2014 (EIRNS)—A new study published in the British medical journal Lancet today, has found new evidence that the conditions imposed on Greece are having a murderous effect on its population, with dramatic negative effects on the health of its citizens, including rising rates of HIV, tuberculosis, depression, and infant deaths.

The cuts in health care and dramatic increase in unemployment have also left thousands of people without health insurance. As cuts have been made to AIDS prevention programs, rates of HIV and tuberculosis in drug users have spiked. Suicides and mental health problems tend to be under-reported, so "this is probably just the tip of the iceberg," said Alexander Kentikelenis of Cambridge University, the study's lead author.

The study's findings were based mainly on population surveys and statistics from the government and other sources including the European Commission. Kentikelenis said it would take years to measure the long-term consequences on those who are left without regular access to health care, particularly those with chronic conditions like heart disease. They observed a 21% rise in stillbirths, according to figures from the Greek National School of Public Health. There has been a 43% increase in infant mortality, much of which can be attributed to malnutrition and lack of prenatal care because of health cuts.

"Some pregnant women no longer have access to health care, therefore the complications later on in their pregnancy can be more pronounced," he said. The researchers also found that infant deaths, which had previously been falling, jumped by more than 40% between 2008 and 2010. He said that was likely linked to infants not getting enough to eat and getting fewer medical check-ups, as families cut off from state health care cannot afford private treatment.

The medical charity Doctors of the World confirmed that the Greek financial crisis has had a devastating impact on health. In response, the group has doubled the number of programs it runs in Greece since the crisis began. "We see people in conditions I've never seen in my life," deputy director of Doctors of World Nathalie Simmonot said, referring to patients who have turned up at clinics with chunks of their flesh missing.

The Lancet report itself indicates that funding of health care has been cut so deeply that Greece now spends less on healthcare than all the pre-2004 European Union members (i.e., France, Germany, etc.) For example the public hospital budget was cut by 26% between 2009 and 2011; in the last two years it has been cut even more. The budget for medicines was slashed from €4.7 billion in 2010 to €2.88 billion in 2012, and was cut to €2 billion by 2014.