One month after the earthquake, needs in Ecuador persist

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson William Spindler to whom quoted text may be attributed at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

One month after the 7.8-magnitude earthquake that claimed the lives of over 650 people in north-western Ecuador, humanitarian needs in the country remain acute. People are struggling to rebuild their lives and there are continuing aftershocks. Two such aftershocks of 6.7 and 6.8 degrees occurred on May 18, causing one death, injuring some 90 people, and adding to widespread damage across the provinces of Manabí and Esmeraldas.  

According to official figures, some 73,000 people have been displaced as a result of the earthquake and are now living in organized shelters and camps, with host families, or in spontaneous sites. Over 30,000 people are currently staying in collective centres, where protection mechanisms and community-based strategies need to be strengthened to minimize risks of violence and abuse, especially for women, girls and boys, and reduce increasing anxiety among the displaced. Thousands of people are also being hosted by vulnerable families whose resources are already overstretched, thereby increasing the risk of tensions among the population. In addition, around 15,000 people have lost their identity documents, making it difficult for them to access basic services and social programs. 

Over the past month UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, chartered two airlifts to provide immediate assistance to the most affected communities, including 900 tents, 50,000 sleeping mats, 7,000 kitchen sets and 18,000 mosquito nets. In addition to delivering this material relief, UNHCR is leading the protection response in Quito, the capital, and in Manta, Pedernales and Muisne, and working closely with local authorities to coordinate activities relating to child protection and fighting sexual and gender-based violence. We are also supporting the Government’s efforts to reissue documents to those who have lost their identification, asylum and refugee documents, as well as property and land titles.

Some 17,000 refugees and asylum-seekers, mostly from Colombia, lived in the areas most affected by the earthquake and its aftershocks. The disaster has increased their vulnerability and added challenges to their local integration process in a context of limited socioeconomic opportunities. 

Limited financial support is significantly hindering the humanitarian operations underway in Ecuador, and UNHCR calls on donors to urgently fund the Flash Appeal of US$73 million which was launched on 20 April to respond to the life-saving, protection and self-reliance needs of 350,000 people. The appeal is currently funded at only 15 per cent. 

For further information on this topic, please contact:

In Mexico city, Francesca Fontanini +52 1 55 91972690, [email protected]

In Quito, Sonia Aguilar, +593 9 940 13 567, [email protected]

In Geneva, Nora Sturm +41 79 200 7618, [email protected]