Social Issues

Covid exacerbates economic, social divides in impoverished Paris suburbs

By Antonio Torres del Cerro

Grigny, France, Feb 26 (efe-epa).- Almost a year after the outbreak of the pandemic, residents in the poorest suburb of Paris, particularly the young, are being forced to rely on food banks to survive.

Just 30 kilometers south of Paris, which has some of the highest per capita income neighborhoods in Europe, poverty and hunger have found fertile ground in suburban towns like Grigny, which is home to 30,000 people.

Forty-five percent live below the French poverty line (set at 900 euros per month) and 25 percent are unemployed, more than double the national average. These figures do not factor in the full impact of Covid, which has forced many sectors to shut down for almost a year.

The damage caused by the pandemic is visible at the local food bank, run by the national charity “Restos du Coeur” (‘Restaurants of the Heart’).

The establishment has seen a 14 percent increase in its membership since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis.

The charity estimates that 2,500 people now come daily to its facilities, prefabricated cabins set up next to high rise apartment blocks.

Most of them are foreign — there are 90 nationalities represented in the town. And among them, there are those without documents, like Moroccan Zineb Mediouni, a 32-year-old mother of two.

“I have no job, I earn nothing and I thank the ‘Resto du Coeur’ because it has helped me a lot. There are people who are not even lucky enough to be helped,” Mediouni, who also works as a volunteer at the food bank, tells Efe.

Housed in a local social shelter with her two children and divorced from her husband, she relies on charities to survive.

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