State Meltdown: Greece on Brink of Total Failure

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ATHENS, Greece - At SOS Children's Villages, social worker Stergios Sifnios hopes their stockpile of food and clothing will help convince a growing number of desperate young mothers that they don't have to abandon their children.

Sifnios said their caseload of needy families has doubled from last year.

"There's no government social services around to support these people," he explained.

Paraskevi Thoma is a mother of three and unemployed. She has to have assistance.

"When you have three children and you have no job, you're forced to seek aid from somewhere," Thoma said.

Economic Free Fall

Some mothers are simply dropping off their children at orphanages because they cannot afford to feed them anymore.

Greece is on the edge of a free fall. The national debt is now larger than the economy, which has shrunk by 20 percent, and will shrink another 7 percent this year.

At least 67,000 businesses will go bankrupt in 2012 alone. The unemployment rate has reached 24 percent.

Hunger and shortages are spreading. Some are asking if Greece is already a "failed state."

As one Greek journalist put it, the Greek people are "disillusioned, miserable, exasperated and very frightened."

Greeks on the street told CBN News almost universally they think their government is useless.

"Greece is finished…hospitals don't work, nothing works…everything is going bankrupt," Erasmus, an Athens taxi driver, said. "Greece will have to be rebuilt from the ground up."

A Homeless Generation

The crisis is sucking more and more of the middle class into bankruptcy and homelessness.

Leo once enjoyed a successful working career in Athens before the economic crisis killed his business. He lost everything last year.

"I found myself by the end of September in 2011 on the streets, unable to pay rents, unable to pay the rent of the studio, and not having any cash left," he said.

Leo slept on park benches for 45 days before coming to the Klimaka Homeless Center for help.

"We talk about the new homeless generation: people that up until recently, they had a good standard of living," Anta Alamanou, who runs the shelter, said.

Human Desperation

At the Medecins du Monde free medical clinic in Athens, doctors said they're treating more and more members of the middle class who are now unable to get medical care and lifesaving medicine from Greek hospitals.

"We have many people that have come here who have been off their medications for months because they didn't have the means to buy them," Dr. Aspasia Mihalaki told CBN News.

Greece's medical system is breaking down. As hospitals run out of money, they're unable to pay for needed medicine.

Greece reportedly owes pharmaceutical companies one and half billion euros.

Mihalki calls it a humanitarian crisis. She said many of her patients have thought about killing themselves.

"We see a lot of depression and anxiety disorders. Many of them even saying they want to commit suicide," she said.

A Failed State?

While European Union leaders regularly unveil bigger and better bailout plans, there is a growing consensus within the EU that Greece is a "hopeless case" and will have to leave the eurozone.

Most agree that returning to the old currency, the drachma, will turn a bad situation into a catastrophic one.

Economist Panos Tsakloglou said if Greece leaves the euro, he expects chaos.

"The first thing is a bank run, a collapse of the economy, and at least in the first month we will have complete chaos, not only economically but politically, as well," he explained.

Inflation will soar, according to economists, making basic food items scarce and unaffordable. Greek officials have said they fear civil war.

"It is a real possibility that you're going to be walking to a grocery store, and all you're going to find on the shelves in vinegar and salt," former government economic advisor Elena Panaritis said.

"We're not dealing with a failed economy; we're dealing with a failed state," she added. "A governing structure with rules and regulations that is unable to control itself. That's what we're dealing with."

The fear is that Greece's problems are so deep, nothing will be able to stop an eventual economic and social meltdown.

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CBN News
Dale Hurd

Dale Hurd

CBN News Sr. Reporter

A CBN News veteran, Dale Hurd has reported extensively from Western Europe, as well as China, Russia, and Central and South America.  Since 9/11, Dale has reported in depth on various aspects of the global war on terror in the United States and Europe.  Follow Dale on Twitter @HurdontheWeb and "like" him at