Ecuador: Rebuilding lives in the wake of the earthquake

May 11, 2016

To kickstart recovery, UNDP is implementing the Emergency Community Work and Debris Management initiative in rural areas affected by the earthquake. Photo: UNDP Ecuador

“It was awful. It felt like my house had turned into a boat, and huge waves were going to wreck it. Everything was moving, and then the lights went out. Suddenly it went completely dark, and I thought it was the end,” says Victoria Demera, a member of Youth United for Community Development in Las Gilces, Manabí province, one of the coastal regions severely affected by the earthquake that struck Ecuador on 16 April.

“We spent all night on a hill, afraid of a tsunami. With each aftershock, our fear increased. We had no electricity, no water, and we were afraid to go home,” Victoria adds.

In the aftermath of the earthquake, young people organized to help the town’s president address community needs. During the days the town had no electricity, 23 young people worked day and night to filter water and supply the 641 families of Las Gilces.

More than 400 homes and important economic infrastructure, including many stores and the Community Tourism Centre, were damaged. The lack of water and electricity was a great hardship to families in Las Gilces, whose livelihoods depend on salt works, fishing and tourism.

To begin the recovery process as quickly as possible, the UNDP kicked off the Emergency Community Work and Debris Management initiative in rural areas affected by the earthquake.

This UNDP initiative is the first debris management effort done with the participation of affected communities. Residents of Las Gilces designed a community plan, and the initiative took off with the participation of 30 women and men, who are being paid to remove rubble.

The project is implemented in collaboration with the Ministry for Urban Development and Housing (MIDUVI), the Ministry for Coordination of Production, Employment and Competitiveness (MCPEC), the Ministry for Coordination of Social Development (MCDS) and with the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Ministry of Labour (MINTRAB). The ministry issued an agreement establishing a special hiring mechanism with social security benefits for emergency community work.

“People in the community need income to revitalize their lives, and right now there aren’t any jobs. That’s why this initiative is so important to us,” Victoria says. While young people are focused on paying for transportation and other school-related expenses, parents worry about putting food on the table, buying school supplies and repairing their homes.

UNDP is supporting emergency community income generation with an initial investment of US$300,000, providing immediate support for social and economic recovery.

“Debris management is the beginning of the recovery process, in which support for livelihoods and the rebuilding of homes play a vital role,” explains Nuno Queiros, UNDP Deputy Resident Representative in Ecuador. “With this goal in mind, UNDP links humanitarian response to human development from the outset.”

Highlights
  • A magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck the Ecuadorian coast on 16 April, causing major loss of life and damage.

  • UNDP is aiding emergency community income generation with an initial contribution of US$300,000, providing immediate support for social and economic recovery.

  • To help the greatest number of people, UNDP launched a fundraising platform. You can participate in the Ecuador Aquí Estoy (Ecuador, I am here for you) campaign or make a donation.

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