Two years after the L’Aquila earthquake there’s not a lot to show by way of recovery on a physical or local economy level, by either the local or national government. Plenty of incompetence and, to put it bluntly, a sublime inability ‘to organise a piss up in brewery’ in their efforts to restore Abruzzo’s capital city and surrounding villages affected by the earthquake in April 2009.
As a newspaper article so aptly pointed out, rubble, corruption and resignations tarnish most sites; realms of paper & email exchanges outlining plans that have resulted in nothing but costly management fees and works of fantasy provide little in the way of home-comfort for those in the most need. The simple action of getting families back into their homes to run businesses and for example tend smallholdings whose veggies help support small budgets is sparse on the ground. It is little wonder that poverty in Abruzzo is up by 21.7% the first quarter of 2011; far too high even taking into account that the world’s economies too are on their knees.
For the 6th April I was going to write about one family who had been displaced, but how can you write when 38k are still living away from ‘home’, so many in garish pre-fabs that are indescribably hot in the summer, without decent shops, transport and whose sole form of entertainment across all ages involves meeting in a shopping centre.
Many family networks are severed by kms in the efforts of those under pensionable age attempting to get new employment. The result is the fracture of the support role which so many Abruzzo families rely on so heavily, grandparents looking after grandchildren when their children are at work, children tending sick parents; money now has to be found for carers or alternatively the idea of employment is regretfully shelved till circumstances change.
Those success stories that have quite literally got off the ground are being funded by individuals, families & charitable enterprises more often than not with a heritage link to those affected. The town of Fossa is one example; another, a privately owned home for autistic children that was destroyed has managed to secure private funding. The region and those affected desperately still require support to get their lives back into the order it should be. If you have any sort of link to Abruzzo, skills to offer or a field of expertise in which you could contribute, encouragement of visitors to take a swing by L’Aquila on their holidays to Italy or Abruzzo, now more than ever is the time to wave a big flag highlighting any way in which you can help.
There is lots of talk about major restoration work with objet d’art, buildings of architectural importance, &c., but it isn’t these that develop an economy, it’s the people. Even an art auction we helped to organise was affected by this tagging, when the Italian Institute in London insisted funds raised should be placed in restoring the dome of Anime Sante rather than literally the people on the street. Somewhere in all this the priority of people first seems to have been grossly overlooked.
Houses that were due to be sold before the earthquake and monies given to children to buy their own houses and build their lives remain fractured, even if it is just one wall like my neighbours… It seems that local & national govt is great at issuing paperwork but incapable of providing a date to when they can fix; compared to the infrastructures that have recently been set up by the Japanese for their people following a 9.0 earthquake and Tsunami this is nothing but embarrassing. I love Italy and its people, but its government should be ashamed of their inaptitude and how their games in which more attention seems given to keeping a Prime Minister out of jail or court have ended up stagnating a local economy that had previously been a jewel in central and southern Italy’s crown depending on where you draw your boundary lines. Who can forget the pictures of the road in Japan repaired after 6 days! Here the people are left playing the rubble waiting game from their ‘you should be so grateful’ pre-fab sheds.
I know one particularly galling affect of the earthquake to the people of my village is the loss of their small Church. Throughout their lives they have contributed to its upkeep so the sense of irony that the single largest financial power of the world, the Catholic Church cannot step in and provide funds to local communes helping them to restore small village churches, the temple of the people is just a foul-tasting travesty. Many of those left in the villages are the old & infirm, transport doesn’t run on Sundays to many small hamlets and villages across Abruzzo, with their families away working, one small comfort would be the ability for the consistently religious to attend church once more. I for one as a non-religious individual believe that this is the very least that the Catholic Church could undertake to show the same care and love that their congregations have spent throughout their lives. I do question why the Italian local and regional govt let countries like Russia invest 7 million euros in 1 church when monies could be invested in restoring homes or even providing little churches to the many. Grand gestures so often provide fantasy but cold comfort in real life.
Offering a helping hand of any sorts means a small step to alleviating the chaos and instability that the government’s inability to act has resulted in. Earthquakes bring destruction they shouldn’t be allowed to bring the end of civilisation too.
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