Rome

Lou Gehrig patients in Italy start hunger strike protest

Some 100 protesters to cut food intake by 50%, organizer says

Lou Gehrig patients in Italy start hunger strike protest

Rome, November 14 - About 100 seriously disabled people, including many afflicted by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig's disease, began a hunger strike Wednesday to protest what they claim is insufficient government financial assistance for patients with various needs. The hunger strikers will start cutting back their food intake by 50% starting today, according to Mariangela Lamanna, vice president of the November 16 Committee (Comitato 16 Novembre), an organization which represents Lou Gehrig patients. Following a recent amendment to budget laws, the government has earmarked some 200 million euros for the ill and disabled. However, the head of the November 16 Committee, Salvatore Usala, himself a ALS patient, has criticized such funding as insufficient and has threatened to carry out a sit-in on November 21 in front of Italy's economy ministry, along with other patients. ''The 200 million euros offered by the government, once shared out among the 25,000 disabled and seriously disabled Italians would mean each sick Italian would get a monthly check of 600 euros to help cover home-care expenses compared with a monthly bill of 3,000 euros,'' Lamanna said. The November 16 Committee, together with a series of other organizations representing various disabilities, asked for the government to earmark at least 400 million euros.

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