Thousands of families are facing financial hardship over Easter, unable to afford even basics like bread and milk, the Pancyprian Volunteers Council (Psse) said on Tuesday.

According to the volunteer group the number of people slipping under the poverty line is as dire as during the 2013 crisis. Then, as now, 2,000 families are being supported by the group through the holidays.

It is also the first time, in the eight to nine years since the food coupon system was introduced, that people in need are having to be on waiting lists, head of the organisation Elias Demetriou told Reporter.

The reason, according to Demetriou, is that individual and business donations have shrunk compared to previous years due to the steep rise in cost of living, which is squeezing all.

“Whereas before we would get ten [donated items] from businesses now, we’ll get one, or individuals who would previously donate €100 now donate €20 or €30,” Demetriou said.

Famagusta district has a waiting list for the first time ever and Nicosia also has a heavy load, Demetriou said.

The 2,000 three-to-four-member families rely on assistance directly from Psse, however, at least 480 other charities and NGOs operating under the organisation’s umbrella, are assisting from five to 50 families each, he added.

“The true extent of the problem is much bigger, we are not doing at all well and we are talking about [being able to offer] €100 to €200 or coupons for flaounes, red eggs and candles,” Demetriou continued.

“People are calling us who don’t even have bread or milk, it’s inconceivable,” he said.

Psse will continue its collection and distribution campaign through Wednesday. Anyone wishing to help can call 226514786 to be directed to the district volunteer.