On the 16th of April 2016, a powerful earthquake struck the northern coastal region of Ecuador, killing more than 650 people, injuring thousands and destroying more than 30,000 buildings. It was the worst earthquake in the country since 1979.
Hundreds of thousands of people lost everything, and even today some are still living in temporary shelters with limited access to safe drinking water. During the months following the earthquake more than 8,000 people were living in state funded shelters and 11,000 were living in improvised shelters without basic services.
The worst affected regions were Esmeraldas and Manabí, located 170 kilometres from the capital of Quito. It is estimated that repairing the damage will cost around 3,400 million dollars.
Oxfam’s immediate response
Some hours after the disaster, Oxfam mobilized a team of experts and sent two tonnes of piping and water tanks to Portoviejo and Pedernales. This was possible thanks to the support from the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID). These supplies gave access to drinking water to more than 10,000 survivors, whose homes had been completed destroyed or who lived in areas where the public water supply had been severely damaged.
We worked together with international, local and governmental organisations to facilitate access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene to those most affected. Thanks to your generous support, we delivered life-saving hygiene kits and organized activities promoting good hygiene to avoid infections and the spreading of water-borne diseases. This first phase of our response has benefited more than 78,000 people across 30 communities.
“We hope that by delivering these kits we can create awareness amongst people on the importance of washing your hands and drinking water from safe sources.” Arely Rodriguez, representative from the Promotion of Hygiene. Photo: Damaris Ruiz/Oxfam
We also rebuilt five water systems in the region of San Vicente (in the Manabí province) and others in eight different regions in the Esmeraldas province. Our work gives affected communities, after the initial emergency intervention, the ability to manage their own drinking water and organise activities to promote good hygiene.
Women participated very actively in the design of sanitation facilities (such as bathrooms for men and women, showers, toilets adapted for children, etc.) and in the development of strategies and tools to promote good hygiene. Many of them promoted and organized community meetings, family visits and cleanliness campaigns, as well.
Also, Oxfam in Ecuador designed a pioneering system for collecting data through mobile devices to improve the effectiveness of water delivery. Thanks to this new tool, we can know how many litres of water a family consumes, the time it takes to get their water and their level of satisfaction, all in real time.
Working for long term recovery
Now that the first few months have passed, our work focuses on medium and long term recovery.
Some of the main infrastructures affected by the 16th of April earthquake were schools or education units. The buildings were already greatly lacking in suitable water and hygiene before the quake, so Oxfam, together with UNICEF and other local societies, started a programme to improve schools in rural areas in the Esmeraldas and Manabí provinces.
- We guaranteed access to clean water for drinking and washing hands.
- We provided bathrooms for girls and boys.
- We held educational workshops to promote good hygiene in schools as well as the rural communities they are in.
- We improved the management of waste and promoted recycling.
- We rebuilt the water and sanitation systems in both schools and the surrounding communities.
Oxfam in Ecuador
We have more than 30 years of experience working in Ecuador during which we have worked to improve incomes, living conditions and access to water and land for agricultural communities, and have strengthened their participation as important social actors in public policy that affects them. We have supported movements which encourage the recognition of women’s rights and fight against gender violence. We have also worked with the Ecuadorian government to reduce risks before natural disasters.