The number of Portuguese turning to Catholic church-run association Cáritas Portuguesa for help has soared over the past year, with figures from 13 of the 20 regional branches registering an increase from five thousand to 62,000 people in 12 months.
Between last October and the same month of this year the number of people turning to Cáritas for charity have multiplied by more than ten-fold in 13 of the 20 regional diocese, according to figures from the association.
The information was disclosed during a meeting of the Cáritas Portuguesa General Assembly, during which heads from 19 of the 20 Cáritas Dioceses met to discuss how to “take on the future” and best offer help to the most needy.
Eugénio Fonseca, President of the association estimated that, globally, there was a growth of between 20 and 30 percent of people receiving support from the institution, in relation to last year, though he stressed that those figures do not accurately reflect reality.
“Unfortunately, some Dioceses do not have the capability to respond to every situation that comes along”, he said.
According to the head of Cáritas the surge in requests is “more than anything to do with unemployment”, which “then brings things associated with it”, such as a lack of food or the inability to buy medicines.
“Unemployment is, at this moment, the main reason that drives people to seek us out”, he reiterated.
The numbers released this week are on a par with patterns that other institutions have been faced with due to the rising number of requests for help.
The National Food Bank, which will carry out its next collection in supermarkets throughout Portugal over the last weekend of this month, is currently sustaining some 280,000 Portuguese. And the need for community ‘soup kitchens’ run by the Portuguese Charitable Union has grown by between 200 and 250 percent over the last year.
Meanwhile, Cáritas Portuguesa has warned that “the blackest phase of the crisis has not yet occurred”, and predicted that unemployment will rise further, as well as being a long-term issue.
Eugénio Fonseca appealed for the population to create “less expenditure” and carry out “a permanent fight against social asymmetries”.
A statement issued following the meeting indicated that “many families can’t keep on top of bills, which further deepens the crisis.”
Mr. Fonseca acknowledged that “a significant part of the population fell into frenzied consumerism, did not maintain saving habits nor did they work together to overcome the crisis.”