Homes, food, jobs key after Ecuador quake

Medical care was hard hit. Nine hospitals were severely damaged and are currently non-operational. Photo by Eduardo Naranjo for Catholic Relief Services

Medical care was hard hit. Nine hospitals were severely damaged and are currently non-operational. Photo by Eduardo Naranjo for Catholic Relief Services

More than two weeks after the 7.8 magnitude earthquake ravaged Ecuador’s northern coast Caritas aims to help 700 families (3,500 people) in 8 rural communities rebuild their lives with funding from an international emergency appeal.

The earthquake took 659 lives and injured and additional 4,605. The majority of communities in the provinces of Esmeraldas and Manabí are decimated. Buildings, infrastructure and livelihoods have been buried beneath the rubble.

“We have identified the most urgent priorities,” said Mauricio López, Secretary General of Caritas Ecuador. “The needs will be enormous in terms of restoring social fabric, spiritual force and the means needed for entire communities and many families to lead dignified lives.”

Over the course of the next 12 months, Caritas will help families heal by focusing on four areas of intervention: food security, psycho-social and spiritual support, shelter reconstruction and livelihoods.

Families with small children, the elderly, handicapped and expectant and nursing mothers will receive priority.

Of immediate concern is getting nutritional support and hygiene kits to displaced families. Medical care was hard hit in the affected areas. Nine hospitals were severely damaged and are currently non-operational. Rains and exposure to the elements increases the risk of disease outbreak. Proper hygiene is essential to help curb the spread of disease in temporary shelters.

Parishes will continue to provide vital spiritual support at a time when many are struggling to understand the loss of their homes, jobs and loved ones. Listening centres are being set up along with meeting areas where people can come and get information to help guide them during the rebuilding process.

The emotional impact on the population is permanent said Caritas Ecuador in a statement: “Psycho-spiritual accompaniment guarantees the interior spiritual and emotional conditions to begin the arduous process of personal and family recovery and live life fully, after healing the physical and internal wounds.”

Providing more permanent shelter for displaced families is also a top concern. In some areas no building was left undamaged. A full 70 percent of participating families will have the opportunity to rebuild their homes using local materials.

Homes will be rebuilt with the assistance of the affected parties and are designed with seismic safety in mind so that they are safeguarded from future earthquake damage.

In the final stages of the project, families will receive assistance in starting small garden plots. They will be able to consume and sell their harvests, helping to rebuild family reserves and earn money to cover expenses.

The 12-month project will cost €1.4 million. “We thank the constant and unending shows of support from all over the world, especially from our sister Caritas organisations,” says López. “We ask God permits us to be protagonists in the lives and directly accompany the people.”

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