Earthquake in EcuadorOn March 18, 2023, a 6.8 magnitude earthquake in Ecuador shook the coastal city of Machala, killing at least 15 people and injuring nearly 460 others. The death toll is expected to continue to rise with search and rescue efforts underway. The earthquake in Ecuador destroyed homes and buildings along the coastline and had an impact as far as the Ecuadorian highlands and some areas of Peru.

Ecuador’s Risk of Natural Disasters

Ecuador is located on the west coast of the South American continent with Colombia neighboring to the north and Peru to the south. Though the country is prone to many natural disasters, the top three most common natural disasters are earthquakes, floods and volcanic eruptions. According to the World Bank’s Climate Change Knowledge Portal, between 1980 and 2020, Ecuador saw an average of 12 earthquakes per year.

The U.K. government’s advice on foreign travel indicates that Ecuador’s propensity for earthquakes is due to its location in an area of extreme seismic activity. The advice states, “Seismologists assess the risk of earthquakes in the province of Esmeraldas on the north-western coast as particularly high because of its proximity to the convergence of the Nazca and South American plates.”

Recent Earthquake Impact on a Struggling Economy

The recent earthquake in Ecuador originated off the Pacific Coast about 50 miles south of Guayaquil, the country’s second-largest city and is the most destructive since the devastating earthquake in April 2016. According to the World Food Programme (WFP), after striking Ecuador’s northern coast, the 2016 earthquake left reconstruction costs estimated at almost 3% of the GDP.

The nation does not quickly recover from the loss of livelihoods and infrastructure due to the struggling Ecuadorian economy and high poverty rates. According to a World Bank 2020 report, in 2019, about a quarter of the population lived under the national poverty line, equal to more than 4 million people, due to rising unemployment rates and a 2% real labor income decrease for the second consecutive year.

The WFP reports that 40% of Ecuador’s rural population now lives below the poverty line. While Ecuador has seen some growth in its GDP due to a decline in poverty through investments in health, education, infrastructure and social policies, plummeting oil prices and other factors are driving an economic decline.

GlobalGiving Initiative

A struggling economy and devastating natural disasters make it difficult for a country to flourish. For this reason, initiatives like the GlobalGiving’s Ecuador and Peru Earthquake Relief Fund are crucial to building up developing nations. GlobalGiving is a nonprofit whose mission is to connect various nonprofit organizations to donors and companies. The organization states that “All donations to this fund will support relief and recovery efforts in Ecuador and Peru. Initially, the fund helps first responders meet survivors’ immediate needs for food, fuel, clean water, medicine and shelter.” GlobalGiving states further, “As needs emerge, we will support longer-term recovery efforts run by local, vetted organizations in the impacted areas.” The goal is to raise $500,000 to support relief for the earthquake in Ecuador and Peru.

Government Initiatives

After President Guillermo Lasso declared a state of emergency, Ecuador’s Ministry of Economy and Finance announced that it will provide financial resources so the government can assist citizens impacted by the devastation of the earthquake. President Lasso has toured the impacted areas and has committed to mobilizing teams to provide needed support. In addition, the government announced in March 2023 the creation of a housing lease program to temporarily house families who lost their homes during the earthquake.

With government assistance and nonprofit support, there is hope that impacted families will find relief. The Ecuadorian government’s efforts in terms of addressing poverty and establishing disaster resilience are essential to minimize the impact of future natural disasters.

– Stella Tirone
Photo: Flickr

HIV/AIDS in Ecuador
Ecuador, a South American country, is a middle-income country. Of its 18 million population, an estimated 9.8% lived on $3.20 per day in 2019. Nevertheless, it has a reputable health care system, scoring 13th in the world according to Bloomberg’s 2014 Most Efficient Heath Care Rankings. Ecuador’s proficient health care system has been effective in combatting the global epidemic known as HIV/AIDS. The first reported case of HIV in Ecuador was in 1983. Below is an assessment of the status of HIV/AIDS in Ecuador.

Current Rates of HIV/AIDS

Globally, there are an estimated 38.4 million people living with HIV, as of 2021. Of these, 1.7 million are children and the remaining 36.7 million are adults. In Ecuador, an estimated 35,000 people are living with HIV. This means that HIV prevalence per 1,000 adults is roughly 0.19% in Ecuador. A 2017 Open Forum Infectious Diseases study revealed that more than 60% of HIV patients are on antiretroviral therapy and most cases are not yet in the AIDS stage.

Government Measures

On December 8, 2016, the Mayor of Quito, Ecuador’s capital and home to 25% of its HIV cases, signed the Paris Declaration Fast Track, a piece of legislation that aims to end the AIDS epidemic once and for all. By signing the Declaration, Mayor Mauricio Rodas has committed to reaching certain targets of HIV awareness and rates of treatment. The high standards set by the Declaration require that 90% of people with HIV are aware of their HIV status; that 90% of people who know their status are receiving antiretroviral treatment; and finally, that 90% of people on treatment are suppressing the viral load. The signing of this Paris Declaration signified a clear determination of the nation’s legislators to eradicate HIV/AIDS in Ecuador.

Looking Ahead

In 2018, an NGO called Diálogo Diverso began its journey in Quito. The organization is the first in Ecuador to work for human rights, including the rights of LGBTI migrants and refugees. Its “Hablemos Positivo” (Let’s Talk Positively) initiative receives support from the United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). Now active in three other locations across Ecuador, including the HIV hotspot, Guayaquil, Diálogo Diverso is spreading the message of tolerance and inclusivity further than ever.

As a result, Ecuador is becoming a safe space for those with HIV from all over South America. This is incredibly encouraging as an important contributor to eradicating the virus is to increase awareness of the real causes of transmission and the many options available for further prevention of transmissions. Furthermore, one activist working with Diálogo Diverso stated that “HIV is one of the reasons why LGBTI people leave the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, given the difficulties in accessing antiretrovirals on a permanent basis, the invisibility of their rights and, on other occasions, hate crimes.” With the continuation of the good work of Diálogo Diverso and continued funding of Ecuador’s health care system, the potential for eradicating HIV/AIDS in Ecuador looks promising.

– Max Edmund
Photo: Unsplash

Bird Flu in Ecuador
Ecuador has received a lot of attention for its avian wildlife—in fact, it was studying birds on the Galapagos Islands where Charles Darwin invigorated his theory of evolution. The intertwining relationship between man and nature is evident, raising a cause for concern when an extremely deadly disease enters the animal kingdom. That disease is the bird flu in Ecuador.

About Bird Flu/H5N1

In 2022, Ecuadorians detected a strain of bird flu (H5N1) in local wildlife—and birds were only the beginning of the infected animals. In Peru, a neighboring country, marine life showed symptoms of H5N1—sea lions and dolphins both tested positive for the disease, causing questions about the progression, transition and mutation of H5N1 in Ecuador. Hundreds of thousands of animals, including; birds, foxes, mink and bears, tested positive for the disease. While H5N1 is rare in humans, human infection is possible.

The Way That H5N1 Works

While H5N1 is extremely contagious to birds and other animals, mammal infection is rare. However, Ecuador reported the first case of human infection in January 2023. When a human contracts H5N1 from close proximity to an infected bird, the case fatality rate (CFR) is about 56%. The World Health Organization (WHO) determined this through data from previous bird flu infections from 2003 to 2023. Of 240 confirmed cases during this time period, 135 cases were fatal, as of February 23, 2023.

H5N1 functions by connecting to receptors in an animal’s respiratory system. Humans lack these receptors in their upper respiratory tract, making infection relatively difficult. However, humans can contract the disease in their lower respiratory tract, which can cause severe pneumonia. Poultry workers—mainly slaughterhouse workers and kitchen workers—are at higher risk and must take further precautions to lower the risk of infection.

Ecuador Taking Action

Ecuador started battling H5N1 by culling thousands of birds—180,000 infected farm birds slowed the transmission of the disease, but not by much. The Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAG) of Ecuador announced a plan to “vaccinate more than 2 million birds.” Companies in Ecuador and Mexico are preparing three-dose vaccines which will protect birds from H5N1 death. While this Ecuador/Mexico alliance is months from being fully enacted, the push for action on both sides is strong. This partnership is a monumental step in ending bird flu in Ecuador.

Risks in Ecuador’s Future

A vaccine for H5N1 in humans is already available. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), manufacturers already have the information they need to mass produce the vaccine.

Poverty is rampant in Ecuador, making access to health facilities difficult, even though Ecuador’s 2007 health care reform created access to universal health care. This proved an asset during the COVID-19 pandemic, expanding health care and creating avenues for vaccinations against COVID-19. These still-in-place avenues will be an asset if Ecuadorians require inoculation against bird flu.

The 2007-2017 expansion of universal health care in Ecuador has been a game-changer, with more Ecuadorians trusting health care and turning toward it when needed. Initially, citizens had reluctance to utilize this health care, with 27% of citizens refraining from utilizing the resource. That number decreased to 18% in 2014 and continued to drop as time moved on, which shows a trend of progress in Ecuadorian health care.

While H5N1 is currently not a direct threat to the health of the human population, human cases of the disease have emerged. While poverty is still great in Ecuador, the COVID-19 pandemic may have created new routes for spreading vaccines which could help slow the bird flu in Ecuador should H5N1 mutate to humans.

– Thomas LaPorte
Photo: Flickr

rural Ecuador
Andean Health and Development (AHD) is a nonprofit that specializes in health care. It operates mainly in rural Ecuador, where barriers to health care are everywhere. Costs of travel into more populous areas where hospitals are typically located, the types of physical work that are common in rural communities and lower health literacy rates in rural Ecuador all have negative implications for human development.

What Andean Health and Development Does

Andean Health and Development (AHD) works to create health care system solutions that make care more accessible to rural Ecuadorians. AHD has built two hospitals in rural Ecuador that offer quality health care to those who cannot travel for health care. To make this approach sustainable, AHD has a rigorous three-year residency program that trains Ecuadorian doctors to become “the rural health care leaders of tomorrow.” This residency program has classes of up to 60 physicians who are hoping to focus their practice in the rural communities that need it. All of the staff at AHD health centers are Ecuadorian, which plays a key role in the success of this community-based approach.

As a nonprofit, Andean Health and Development also maintains relationships with local and international governments, global universities and donor relations to continuously expand its reach. AHD can operate its facilities through a mix of fundraising, patient payments where applicable, partnerships with public and private sectors and government funding. As capital grows, AHD shifts from simply operating its facilities to investing in its staff and covering costs for the poorest people. AHD’s partner organization, the Andean Health Institute, is the operational force that conducts its own research, lobbies for policies that increase access to care and monitors the work that Andean Health and Development is doing.

Why Andean Health and Development Matters for Rural Ecuador

Rural poverty is the result of poor infrastructure, poor access to quality resources like health care and education and fewer job opportunities.

AHD addresses all three of these systemic issues. Although Ecuador has universal health care coverage, access is the most significant challenge for rural citizens. By implementing nearly an entire supplemental health care system, AHD is not only providing health care to those who need it but is also creating a wealth of job opportunities for providers and other AHD staff. AHD creates a sustainable healthcare system that improves patient care as the business grows.

Andean Health and Development is providing care to more than 150,000 rural Ecuadorians while training hundreds of physicians and staff members each year. AHD is also one of the few rural health care providers in South America that successfully utilizes this approach to health care. Adopting a model of local community buy-in combined with capacity-building outside of the health center could be a model that poor or rural regions around the world that require access to health care can use.

 – Hannah Yonas
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Indigenous Ecuadorians
Ecuador is a small South American country on the east coast of the continent. It gets its name from its place on the equator that splits the northern and southern hemispheres. While there is a population of about 17 million people, more than a million of those people are Indigenous Ecuadorians, according to IWGIA. Historically, the Indigenous people, particularly Indigenous women, have endured discrimination, poverty and gender-based violence. Here are three facts about Indigenous Ecuadorians, poverty and gender violence.

3 Facts About Indigenous Ecuadorians

  1. “Indigenous Ecuadorians” is an umbrella term. About 14  groups make up Indigenous Ecuadorians. They are: “Tsáchila, Chachi, Epera, Awa, Quichua, Shuar, Achuar, Shiwiar, Cofán, Siona, Secoya, Zápara, Andoa y Waorani, and Afro-Ecuadorians.” According to the group Minority Rights, there are disparities in data on people self-identifying as Indigenous. While officially, in 2010, only 6.8% of Ecuador’s population identified as Indigenous, estimates suggest that up to 30% of the population could be Indigenous.
  2. Poverty is widespread in Indigenous communities. In 2012, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimated that 60% of Indigenous Ecuadorians live in poverty. The established poverty level is living on $1.90 or less a day. Additionally, half of this 60% lived in extreme poverty, surviving off of $1.16 a day. In fact, Indigenous Ecuadorians are twice as likely to live in poverty as the rest of the country.
  3. Gender violence is more common against minority women. A 2019 study by Agnes Edeby and Miguel San Sebastián showed that 64% of Indigenous Ecuadorian women surveyed faced some form of violence. Many people of color living in Ecuador also experienced violence, according to the study. The study noted a larger risk difference between Indigenous and non-Indigenous women in Ecuador. Gender-based violence occurs partially due to economic dependence. According to the World Bank, economic opportunities for women in Indigenous communities are slim, leaving many reliant on men, whether familial or domestic partners. On top of that, a lack of education, health care and reproductive health care leave Indigenous Ecuadorians more vulnerable to gender-based violence.

Programs to Help Indigenous Women in Ecuador

The World Bank founded the Territorial Economic Empowerment for the Indigenous, Afro-Ecuadorians and Montubian Peoples and Nationalities (TEEIPAM) project, which received board approval in 2020. The project aims to help reduce gender-based violence and provide economic stability among these minority groups. While the TEEIPAM project is still in the early stages of its rollout, project financers have invested $40 million to achieve the project goals by 2026.

TEEIPAM has identified four elements to combat gender-based violence among Indigenous Ecuadorians:

  1. Working to “train and sensitize the local authorities” to gender-based violence and raise the participation of Indigenous peoples in “coordination spaces.”
  2. Creating a community-based approach focused on communication and local activities to address gender-based violence.
  3. Educating households on gender equality and healthy relationships.
  4. Strengthening Indigenous community repercussions for gender-based violence and educating Indigenous leaders to advocate against gender-based violence.

Casa de Mujeres Amazonicas

An Ecuadorian center recently opened to help Indigenous Ecuadorians fleeing gender violence. An alliance of minority women founded the Casa de Mujeres Amazonicas (Home of Amazonian Women) in March 2022. According to its founders, the center is the first in Ecuador to acknowledge the common thread between violence against Indigenous Ecuadorians and Ecuadorian women as violence against both is an ongoing issue. The center provides accommodation, legal help, emotional support and more.

Overall, Ecuador can do more to help Ecuador’s Indigenous people, particularly women, who suffer from violence and discrimination, and therefore, are at higher risk of poverty. Despite the grim statistics, programs are working diligently to get help to those who need it the most, both domestically and abroad. The changes implemented are both structural and abstract but overall will contribute to a better quality of life for Indigenous Ecuadorians.

– Emma Rushworth
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Indigenous Protesters in Ecuador
The president of Ecuador, Guillermo Lasso, lifted a state of emergency imposed as a response to mass protests by Indigenous protesters in Ecuador on June 26, 2022. The demonstrations, beginning on June 13, 2022, were in opposition to the high prices of gasoline and agricultural products and a low education budget. Six civilians have died as a result of them. Ecuador’s largest Indigenous organization, the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE), has been spearheading the movement and met with President Lasso in late June 2022.

Ecuadorian Indigenous Organizations: CONAIE

According to the International Work Group of Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA), around 1.1 million Ecuadorians are Indigenous and 24.1% of them live in the Amazon. Fourteen Indigenous groups live in Ecuador, including the A’i Cofán, Shiwiar, Siekopai and Chachi.

There are many Indigenous organizations in Ecuador. However, CONAIE is the most involved in these Indigenous protests in Ecuador.

In 1986, the organization started operating in Ecuador’s capital, Quito and cited “the continuous struggle of the communities, centers, federations and confederations of Indigenous peoples” as the reason for its existence. Since then, the organization has become known for its direct action and uprising. In 1996, CONAIE famously formed its political movement called the Pachakutik/Nuevo País after halting alliances with other political movements and candidates. Leonidas Iza, who has been representing CONAIE in government dealings, currently leads the Indigenous group.

Poverty and Prices

Poverty in Ecuador has significantly risen in 2022. Among the country’s population of 18 million, 35% live in poverty. Additionally, poverty is commonly and historically found among Ecuador’s Indigenous people, sometimes attributed to discrimination. In 2006, the United Nations Population Fund reported that some 88% of Ecuador’s Indigenous households live under the poverty line.

As aforementioned, recent Ecuadorian protests by members of the country’s Indigenous populations result from high gasoline and agricultural product prices and low education and health care budgets.

In recent months, Ecuadorian fuel prices have distinctly increased. Before President Lasso made adjustments, standard gasoline cost $2.55 a gallon (40 cents higher than neighboring Colombia’s price) and diesel $1.90 a gallon.

Agricultural product prices, another point of protest, have been rising since the end of 2021. Fertilizer prices have also been increasing, potentially leading to less agricultural production and income heading to farming households.

The Ecuadorian educational budget has been declining since 2019, currently at a mere 11.5% of government expenditure and is comparably lower than neighboring South American countries (Colombia is at 14.5%, Bolivia at 14.2%).

Ecuadorian Government Response

Indigenous protesters in Ecuador agreed with their country’s government on the subjects of protest and fuel prices in late June.

After lifting the state of emergency he imposed and the beginning of talks between his government and Indigenous leaders, Ecuadorian President Lasso cut fuel prices– but not to the degree CONAIE wanted. He decreased petrol and diesel price per gallon by 15 cents, whereas the Indigenous organization called for a 45-cent decrease per gallon of petrol and a 40-cent decrease per gallon of diesel, Al Jazeera reported.

Furthermore, CONAIE leader Iza signed a deal with the Ecuadorian government that aims to lower fuel prices, among other costs, limit oil expansion and prohibit mining in protected areas and cease protests. Iza announced the suspension of protests after signing, according to Al Jazeera.

Although the nearly two-week-long protests in Ecuador caused more than 150 arrests, stunted transport and led to at least six deaths, they have amounted to a deal between Indigenous protesters and the Ecuadorian government, hopefully bringing peace and security into the country.

– Sophie Buibas
Photo: Flickr

Food Systems in Ecuador
In 2020, 930,000 tons of food went to waste in Ecuador, according to The Global FoodBanking Network. Much of this waste is due to the inefficiency of food systems in Ecuador. However, there are programs making efforts to decrease this waste and much of these efforts have proven to be very successful. Much of the produce in Ecuador comes from small-scale farms that families run.

According to the Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute, families or smallholder farms occupy 75% of the world’s agricultural land and many of these individuals live in poverty. Without an abundance of employees and a lack of training on commercialization for these small producers, it is difficult for farmers to make a profit suitable for the size of their families. The Joint Programme took notice of this issue and is working to increase access to nutritious foods in the province of Imbabura.

The Joint Programme

The Joint Programme began in September 2020 and helped increase the production of vital foods such as quinoa and lupine. It educated farmers on sustainability and good production practices to get the most benefit from their crops. The initiative also supports the National Plan For Good Living 2013-2017, as reported by the Sustainable Development Goals Fund. The Joint Programme strives to reduce poverty and undernutrition in the cities of Ecuador.

According to the Sustainable Development Goals Fund, this effort helped 716 families to grow agro-diverse plots and increased their access to markets and fairs to sell their produce. The efforts also helped 118 producers of chocho, a high-protein legume, and gave assistance to 112 quinoa farmers to diversify their crops. Out of the 483 families in the program, 60.1% diversified their diets to include more fruits, vegetables and legumes.

The Future of Food Program

After the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, more concerns arose about the ability of food systems in Ecuador to adequately provide for citizens. Only supermarkets were able to sell produce, whereas, before the pandemic hit, producers could sell their food at fairs and marketplaces. This was a necessary option for many farmers due to the small number of collection centers in Ecuador, making it difficult to sell products to supermarkets. It was also more difficult for people to access produce at markets due to stay-at-home orders.

The Future of Food program started in 2019, according to the Diplomatic Courier. The program members deliver baskets of produce from small-scale farmers directly to families in need after the baskets pass a sanitation check. This ensures no produce from farmers goes to waste and provides a source of food to families so that they can stay home during the pandemic. The program has reached more than 9,300 families in Ecuador and has inspired the first farmer-owned online marketplace.

Programs that address the shortcomings of food systems in Ecuador are helping the nation inch closer to food security and sustainability. Implementing these programs in more cities may be helpful to small-scale producers in making a liveable wage and will increase families’ access to healthy foods.

– Katelyn Rogers
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 in Quito
COVID-19 has ravaged the entire world, and each country has experienced the pandemic and suffered losses in its own way. However, the pandemic has a very unique impact on under-resourced countries than it does on developed countries. The New York Times reported that the death toll in Ecuador from the novel coronavirus is among the worst in the world, and the nation became an epicenter in Latin America for the deadly disease. By August 12, 2021, Ecuador recorded 493,767 cases and 31,870 deaths due to COVID-19. Many people suspect that the actual numbers of cases and deaths are much higher. Because Ecuador is a small country with a population of around 17 million people, these figures are extremely high. Here is some information about COVID-19 in Quito, Ecuador, a community that has faced significant challenges due to the pandemic, as well as the teacher who is making a difference.

Health care System in Quito

The health care system in Quito was extremely limited before the pandemic. The public health system in Ecuador lacked capabilities to facilitate contact tracing, appropriate screening and isolation measures and early detection measures. A lack of emergency response preparation and PPE equipment added to the inability of public hospitals to maintain safe conditions and keep up with the influx of patients. Additionally, Ecuador did not receive sufficient supplies of vaccines, and therefore, struggled to roll out vaccines to frontline workers and vulnerable populations in a timely manner. When the virus hit Quito, hospitals became quickly overwhelmed, forcing most people to seek care in tents outside them.

This was the case for Pilar Salazar, a middle-aged teacher from Comite del Pueblo, an impoverished neighborhood in Northern Quito, who shared her story in an interview with The Borgen Project. When her mother fell sick with the flu, Pilar took her to the hospital, where she received treatment in a tent in the cold outside, without space to distance from other patients. Her mother contracted COVID-19 at the hospital and subsequently gave it to Pilar, her primary caretaker.

Pilar then spent the next two months quarantined in her bedroom with pneumonia developed from COVID-19, unable to go to the hospital because of overcrowding. Her husband passed her oxygen tanks and food through her window while she recovered, unsure if she would survive. This story is not unique during the period of COVID-19 in Quito. Due to a lack of education and infrastructure, COVID-19 ravaged Quito and other Ecuadorian cities. Many of Pilar’s friends and her entire immediate family contracted the virus at some point in 2021, and she still feels damage in her lungs.

Economic Impact of COVID-19 in Ecuador

COVID-19 also deeply impacted Quito economically. The GDP in Ecuador was at risk of dropping 11% from the year 2019 to the year 2020. As one of the more underserved neighborhoods in Quito, Comite del Pueblo was particularly vulnerable to economic decline. When the after-school tutoring foundation that Pilar taught at closed down due to COVID-19, she had deep concern for the 40+ students she taught.

In March 2020, the Ecuadorian government implemented a national school closure. This mandate, still in effect today, affected around 4.5 million Ecuadorian school-aged children.

Pilar explained that without somewhere to go during school hours and after school, children are susceptible to abuse at home and drug trafficking in the area. When the foundation closed, some of her students lost their only place to catch up in school and receive direct homework help, while others lost their only meal of the day. This is the reality of the economic downturn and school shutdowns in an underdeveloped neighborhood during the COVID-19 pandemic in Quito.

Pilar’s Solution

In response to these immense challenges, Pilar has begun renovating a building in her neighborhood on her own to open a foundation for the children in her neighborhood. She is one example of many ways in which people have responded to COVID-19 in Quito with resilience. She said that she wants them to have a safe space to go, to study and succeed away from home and the traumas of daily life.

– Abigail Meyer
Photo: Flickr

Impact of COVID-19 on Poverty in EcuadorEcuador is a South American country with a population of more than 17 million. The country relies heavily on oil exports and was battling a global oil crisis when the first COVID-19 case broke out there in February 2020. Since then, the combined effects of the oil crisis and COVID-19 have created many problems for Ecuador. However, there are many sources offering aid to alleviate the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Ecuador.

The Impact of COVID-19

As the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the world, Ecuador was one of the hardest-hit countries. Not only was it the first Latin American country affected but it also ranks ninth worldwide in confirmed deaths per million, according to the World Health Organization. The impact of COVID-19 combined with the effects of a global oil crisis could cause up to an 11% decrease in GDP for the nation.

Organizations Offering Aid

Despite the negative effects people across the world have felt and the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Ecuador, organizations are helping the country recover.

  • U.S. Department of State – The Department of State/U.S. Agency for International Development sent almost $18 million in aid to Ecuador. This will fund improvements to the medical system, purchase rapid test kits and provide medical and personal protective equipment.
  • International Monetary Fund – On Sept. 30, 2020, the Executive Board of the IMF approved a “$6.5 billion Extended Fund Facility arrangement” with the goal of helping Ecuador recover from the economic impacts of COVID-19. By providing these additional funds, the Ecuadorian government will be able to spend more on health and education services. The government can also give cash transfers to Ecuadorians who lost their jobs because of the pandemic.
  • The World Bank – The World Bank provided a line of credit of $500 million to help the Ecuadorian government support families affected by COVID-19. In addition to this, it approved “$14.1 million in nonreimbursable resources from the Global Concessional Financing Mechanism” to provide additional support to the government for its admittance of a large number of refugees.
  • UNICEF – UNICEF reallocated $2.7 million in funds to help with the COVID-19 response. These funds were used to provide PPE, handwashing stations, nutritional supplements, hygiene materials and teachers to help distribute supplies and educate the population on proper sanitation techniques. In addition, UNICEF also provided funds to help cash transfers to Venezuelan refugees who have been unable to receive any from the Ecuadorian government.

There are also other non-governmental and international organizations that are providing aid to the people of Ecuador. The services provided range from telemedicine and hospital care to assisting with sanitation efforts. The U.S. Embassy and Consulate in Ecuador has a list of organizations that are active in Ecuador. It is working to help with the recovery.

Next Steps

As the country faces a difficult recovery, international support is vital to jumpstart the economy and support Ecuadorians. The government will need help to continue providing the necessary equipment, testing and social safety nets for the impacted population. Donating to organizations or urging representatives to continue supporting these forms of aid are great ways to help.

Despite this large impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Ecuador, aid increases recovery efforts. International organizations, foreign governments and non-governmental organizations are working hard to provide funding and supplies to help Ecuador.

Taryn Steckler-Houle
Photo: Flickr

genetically modified seedsMany countries in Central and South America are home to strong agricultural economies. Since the 1990s, the growing use of genetically modified seeds has challenged traditional forms of agriculture. Companies such as DuPont, Syngenta and Bater sent these seeds to Latin America. Since this introduction, Latin American agribusiness has become largely dependent on genetically modified seeds. Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay are home to roughly 120 million acres of genetically modified crops. Promises of greater yields and less work fuel this upsurge. To understand the effects of genetically modified seeds and how farmers are gaining support, The Borgen Project spoke to Aimee Code, the pesticide program director at the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.

Seeds Endanger Farmers’ Prosperity

Two key factors explain the effect of genetically modified seeds on poverty. The first is dependence. Code explains that “many GMO seeds are intrinsically linked with pesticide use.” Code explains further that pesticide dependence can be dangerous as “this traps farmers in a cycle of needing the pesticides and needing these seeds… it becomes more and more expensive and uncomfortable.”

The difference between this cycle of seed use and traditional methods is stark as genetically modified seeds require the user to buy new seeds each year rather than harvesting and using older seeds from past harvests as is traditional. Farmers are unable to reuse genetically modified seeds and plants because they do not own them; the seeds belong to the company that sells them.

Not only do crops themselves threaten farmers’ prosperity, but the system of genetically modified agriculture also fuels poverty. With the introduction of genetically modified seeds came the promotion of farm consolidation, meaning that fewer farmers are necessary. As a result of this farm consolidation, around 200,000 agricultural producers in South America “have lost their livelihoods” in the last two decades.

Seeds Endanger Farmers’ Health

“The amount of data is woefully inadequate on the health effects experienced by these farmers out in the fields,” shares Code on the issue of health in Latin America. However, even ordinary individuals can draw conclusions just from the nature of these practices. The link between genetically modified seeds and health is best explained by the pesticide use required for these crops.

Because farmers must store pesticides in the crops’ area, the pesticides constantly endanger people living around farms. To highlight the commonality of these exposures, Code reflects on her experience working in Honduras. She says, “A young man offered me water to drink out of an old pesticide bottle.” She explains the link to poor health by concluding that “these are exposures that shouldn’t be happening.”

Along with pesticides sprayed on crops, Code explains that “the seeds are often coated with pesticides, making the seeds themselves dangerous depending on the handling practices.” Unfortunately, many farmers cannot access ample personal protective equipment to protect themselves from dangerous chemicals.

Exposure to the seeds and pesticides is grave as long-term effects can include respiratory problems, memory disorders, skin conditions, depression, miscarriages, birth defects, cancer and neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease. In the short term, these pesticides can result in nausea, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, dizziness, anxiety and cognitive harm.

Solving the Problem

The effects of genetically modified seeds remain prominent in the lives of many Latin Americans. However, ongoing solutions aim to mitigate the effects. Code explains that the two most important ways to reduce the spread of genetically modified seeds and crops are education and regulation. As the pesticide program director for the Xerces Society, she works with farmers to implement more sustainable practices.

The Xerces Society is not the only organization working to spread awareness of the value of non-GMO crops. Civil society and social movements throughout Brazil, Ecuador, Colombia, Honduras and Guatemala have mobilized people to protect seeds and the heritage of agricultural practices. These movements are vital for boosting confidence in traditional practices, challenging narratives created by genetically modified seed companies.

Governments from across Latin America have also stepped up to help reduce the use of these seeds. Countries such as Guatemala and Ecuador have implemented full and partial bans on genetically modified seeds. Most recently, Mexico passed legislation to ban the use of transgenic corn and phase out glyphosate by 2024. These mark positive steps as government regulation can stop the trend of high-risk genetically modified seeds that have trapped many farmers. Such legislation will protect food sovereignty and the health of farmers in Mexico.

More legislative measures and actions are required to eliminate the effects of genetically modified seeds in Latin America. However, recent years have seen immense progress in efforts to reduce the seeds’ prevalence through policy action and awareness.

– Haylee Ann Ramsey-Code
Photo: Flickr