Spain's Red Cross has launched its first campaign specifically designed to help the hundreds of thousands of Spaniards living in poverty as a result of the country's economic crisis.
The charity already helps two million people in Spain each year, around 80 per cent of whom live below the poverty line, earning a monthly income of €628 (£506) or less.
But in a sign of the harsh times besieging the country, the "Now More Than Ever" appeal aims to widen the charity's assistance to a further 300,000.
The campaign begins today, on Little Flag Day, traditionally the date when small armies of tin-rattling Red Cross volunteers descend on the streets of Spanish cities in the charity's most high-profile annual drive to replenish its coffers.
Meanwhile, further economic storm clouds gathered yesterday as the International Monetary Fund provided the latest sign that there will be no let-up in the gloom surrounding the Spanish economy, predicting the country will miss its deficit targets for both 2012 and 2013.
The IMF also forecast that the Spanish economy will shrink by 1.3 per cent in 2013, more than double the government's prediction of 0.5 per cent. Worldwide, only Greece has a bleaker economic outlook.
The IMF's pessimism will fuel the pressure on the Spanish government to ask for a bailout for its troubled banking system. However, it is unlikely to ask prior to important regional elections in the Basque Country and Galicia on 21 October.
Month by month, the crisis wreaks ever-greater damage. The Red Cross estimates that 43 per cent of those it helps in Spain will not be able to afford to heat their homes this winter, and 26.2 per cent do not have the money to eat a meal with fish or meat at least three times a week.
Euro crisis dateline
18 October EU leaders summit in Brussels, where discussion is likely about a Europe-wide banking union. Greece's compliance with the conditions of its loans will also be on the agenda.
21 October Elections for regional governments in Spanish regions of Galicia and the Basque Country will be a key test of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's handling of the euro crisis.
12 November Eurogroup meeting of finance ministers. The EU economics chief, Olli Rehn, said yesterday that a decision on releasing €31.5bn in bailout cash to Greece would be made by November.
25 November Elections in Spain's Catalonia region, with its incumbent President, Artur Mas, promising a referendum on more autonomy or even independence if he wins another term.
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