by Jennie van den Boogaard
When a magnitude 6.5 earthquake struck off the southwestern coast of Ecuador on March 18, the scale of the damage was large. The quake injured hundreds and affected 2,500 people, while homes and buildings lay in ruins in both Ecuador and Peru.
Almost immediately following the earthquake, HIAS Ecuador took action. It won approval for funding from the United States Agency for International Development to provide humanitarian assistance for migrants, refugees, and Ecuadorans in El Oro. Then, HIAS Ecuador mobilized teams from its local offices who were able to help people with urgent needs within just four days of the tremor.
Maricela Parra, HIAS Ecuador’s country director, visited hard-hit areas soon after the quake. She noted that roads connecting one city to another were completely flooded and that people were cut off from their livelihoods and other services.
“The response of the government was limited and not timely,” Parra said. But HIAS Ecuador quickly noticed the gap in aid and stepped in to provide emergency services. Staff provided humanitarian assistance and ensured some local services were delivered by organizations like Cáritas and AVSI.
Months after a natural disaster, people still need help. HIAS Ecuador is linking those affected by the earthquake to multiple programs, including ones for mental health support, economic inclusion, child protection, gender-based violence prevention and response, and food security and nutrition programs.
HIAS Ecuador also coordinated with local community leaders and organizations in the central southwestern region to distribute emergency hygiene kits, containing essential items such as soap, sanitary pads, and diapers. In addition to the kits, HIAS provided cash assistance which allowed earthquake victims to cover basic needs.
HIAS provided emergency aid to both displaced Venezuelans and local host communities in Ecuador. Parra pointed out that HIAS Ecuador always works with the local population so even during emergencies, HIAS promotes inclusive communities while protecting refugees in Ecuador.
For those whose lives were upturned by the earthquake, HIAS’ program work ensures that they will continue to receive the support they need.