Womens Rights in Ecuador
Through the horrors of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Maria Amor Foundation, a nonprofit domestic violence shelter, has housed more than 80 women and 120 children as protection from the threat of domestic and sexual violence. The Borgen Project spoke with the director of the Maria Amor Foundation, Blanca Pacheco Lupercio, to learn more about the fight for women’s rights in Ecuador.

Violence Against Women in Ecuador

More than 40% of Ecuadorian women are victims of domestic and sexual violence and 70%  have experienced interpersonal violence in their lifetimes. Women’s rights in Ecuador were making steady progress until the COVID-19 pandemic when unemployment peaked in July 2020 at 16.8%. Despite the subsequent trend toward pre-pandemic rates and a new conservative president focused on economic prosperity, many women still lack the resources to leave violent situations in a nation where machismo, or traditional gender roles, are the status quo. “Violence is structural and systemic,” says Pacheco Lupercio. “We can’t say that all violence ends for women once they enter the shelter.”

The Maria Amor Foundation’s Services

The Maria Amor Foundation offers three major services to abuse victims: a 24-hour emergency hotline, two domestic violence shelters for women and children and a support program to help survivors create a new and independent life according to their dreams and aspirations.

The Foundation created its first domestic violence shelter in 2004 to provide women with a safe and resourceful space to stay. In 2005, the Foundation created a crisis hotline for victims and reprioritized community outreach to rural areas where victims may lack access to technology. By 2014, the Foundation had also opened an alternative shelter in the outskirts of the city to better serve rural women.

When someone calls the hotline, the Foundation interviews the caller and collects facts to identify a victim. After a risk assessment, the Foundation invites the individual to stay at the Casa Maria Amor, where the individual and their children receive psychological, emotional and medical assistance. The Foundation then provides victims with technical training to sustain an independent lifestyle once they leave the shelter. It offers entrepreneurial skills, legal advice and holistic skills like sewing.

Children exposed to violent situations can also be a casualty in the cycle of domestic and sexual violence. Pacheco says the Foundation’s aid programs for children are vital to those who may carry trauma. Child care services and Zoom learning classes for children help survivors build a new life.

How Victims of Violence Regain Independence

When victims leave the shelter, they receive social and legal support to help them form a plan to live independently and without fear of their abusers. The Foundation then connects them with other organizations and support groups like Mujeres Con Exito to assist them as they rediscover independence. “Our job is to… support these women so that one day they can leave independently,” says Pacheco.

More than 80 women stay in one of the Foundation’s shelters over the course of a year. Pacheco says approximately 15 women and their children live at the Casa Maria Amor for about five to six months at a time. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, women are staying in shelters for longer. Pacheco says the pandemic worsened conditions on the ground. As healthcare facilities were overwhelmed and quarantine was underway, mothers struggled to care for and educate children during the workday.

Women’s rights in Ecuador experience violation at all social strata, so the Casa Maria Amor accepts survivors from every walk of life. Pachecho says that although survivors of greater means may have the ability to more easily create a new and independent life, the Casa Maria Amor will not turn away a person in need. In order to keep women out of violent situations, the nation needs to create concrete economic opportunities, Pacheco explains.

Poverty and Women’s Rights in Ecuador

Instilled gender roles and a meager education, particularly in rural regions, typically yield low employment prospects for women. Dr. Bernardo Vega, a professor of gynecology and obstetrics at the University of Cuenca, said in an interview with The Borgen Project that women in Ecuador tend to conform to the expectations of the rigid patriarchal system.

Rigid gender roles affect women in tangible ways such as increasing women’s likelihood of discontinuing their education. Vega says the average education for an Ecuadorian woman is approximately nine years. He says patriarchal gender roles expect women to forgo schooling and instead get married, have children and work in the home.

Vega says poverty, especially in rural areas, drives the inequality and marginalization of Ecuadorian women. He explains that poorly educated and poverty-stricken women tend to be economically dependent on their husbands. Therefore, they are more likely to suffer domestic and sexual violence. Vega says the social stigma women face for leaving their husbands also motivates them to stay silent in their suffering.

Early Pregnancy in Ecuador

Access to reproductive health and information is not equal across Ecuador. Only recently have educational institutions like high schools begun to provide sexual education. Vega says only 40% of adolescents have a general understanding of sexual and reproductive health and 80% of adolescents do not know where to access a sexual healthcare facility. Furthermore, only 5% of adolescents have ever visited healthcare facilities for information or treatment.

“Early pregnancy is like a door into poverty,” says Vega. “Violence and insecurity lead to poverty, like a circle.” According to Vega, Ecuador has the second-highest teenage pregnancy rate of all Latin American countries, trailing behind only Venezuela. He says that approximately 52,000 adolescents become pregnant each year in Ecuador, meaning that two out of 10 mothers are adolescents, a number that has risen in recent decades.

Political Involvement and Education Impacts Women’s Rights

While the push for women’s rights in Ecuador is a long way from guaranteeing egalitarianism, the feminist movement has galvanized women to empower themselves by entering the political sphere. Vega believes a new wave of women politicians can have tangible results in curbing inequity.

Furthermore, a push for educational programs in high schools, like the Plan Nacional de Salud Sexual y Salud Reproductiva, seeks to teach gender roles and sexual reproductive health in order to deconstruct conservative machismo and create a more egalitarian, educated population. This program received a renewal in 2017 and is continuing into 2021.

Andre Silva
Photo: Flickr

the Oil IndustryIn the Ecuadorian Amazon, indigenous communities have fought a decades-long legal battle against the oil industry polluting their environment. In January 2021, a provincial Ecuadorian court overturned a previously held court ruling and ordered major oil companies to cease the use of gas flares. This environmentally degrading act has been practiced since the late 1960s when Chevron-Texaco began drilling prospects in the region. Within the affected areas of Sucumbios and Orellana, residents blame gas flares for the increasing cancer rates within their communities as well as other health complications that have led to the deaths of multiple community members, dating back to the beginning of the practice.

The Dangers of Gas Flaring

The burning of natural gas releases fine particulate matter into the airspace. Over time, exposure to these particulates leads to the onset of serious health problems. A group of Amazonian girls from an affected Ecuadorian community filed a lawsuit in an Ecuadorian court in February 2020. Their case claimed that members of their community live within a few hundred meters of gas flares and have documented more than 200 cancer cases associated with gas flaring in the area. Nearly three-quarters of the cases involved women.

The girls also claimed that the use of flares affected other environmental resources, aside from the air. The flares also contaminated the rainwater, which is the primary source of water for these communities, affecting drinking water, sanitation and the irrigation of crops. The legal action hoped to shut down 447 flares in the Ecuadorian Amazon. The lawsuit was unsuccessful at first, until January 2021, when a court ruled in favor of the girls and ordered an end to gas flaring in the Ecuadorian Amazon.

Oil Spill Contamination

However, other legal battles are still ongoing. In April 2021, hundreds of indigenous activists took to the streets on the anniversary of a devastating oil spill that unleashed nearly 16,000 barrels of crude oil when two pipeline ruptured in 2020. The oil polluted two essential rivers and affected the water security of nearly 30,000 people. Protesters demanded both recognition and action from their elected leaders. Litigants seeking reparations from the oil industry are still struggling against the bureaucratic framework of the nation’s court system.

The 2020 oil spill severely contaminated the Coca and Napo rivers, both in the Amazon region. Pipeline operators failed to decontaminate these rivers after abandoning an ineffective clean-up attempt. The tens of thousands of Amazonians who depend on these rivers come in frequent contact with the contaminated water, leading to various health consequences. The oil spill has without a doubt increased regional poverty and illness. Members of these communities claim that such flagrant contaminations of vital waterways violate their constitutional rights as indigenous people of Ecuador. While the court system weighs the legal authority of these claims, the pollutant’s negative social impact in the region cannot be denied.

The Road Ahead

The Ecuadorian court’s ruling to end the practice of gas flaring by the oil industry brings relief to communities whose voices have gone unheard for decades. The court distinctly acknowledged violations in terms of constitutionally enshrined rights to health, a safe environment and sustainable development, further recognizing the state’s obligation to take measures to avoid negative environmental consequences. The ruling is a major victory for the people of the Ecuadorian Amazon.

Jack Thayer
Photo: Flickr

Providing Meal Kits
After Ecuador rounded its first full year in the coronavirus pandemic, citizens found themselves struggling to survive. Since the pandemic started in March 2020, the Ecuadorian government has repeatedly failed to protect and care for its citizens. It has been neglecting the sick and dead, spreading rampant misinformation, severely underreporting coronavirus cases, and most recently, allowing corruption to occur in the vaccine rollout. As a result, reports have determined the existence of more than 320,000 coronavirus cases along with nearly 17,000 deaths. Health care facilities have become overrun with desperate families and patients seeking care. As a response, the organization Kahre Org is providing meal kits and personal protective equipment (PPE) in Ecuador to help alleviate the suffering of its citizens.

COVID-19 in Ecuador

The pandemic and the blunt of the Ecuadorian government’s lack of responsibility has fallen upon its citizens, most notably, those living in rural areas. The pandemic has upended rural society and displaced many citizens. Communities lack basic necessities such as meal kits, PPE and education. The government has failed to provide citizens with information about the virus. Moreover, rural Ecuadorians, who are typically farmers, have faced an economic crash. This is because their typical markets and routes have closed to prevent the spread of the virus. Many rural Ecuadorians have had to face a harsh economic situation as they are no longer able to sustain their livelihood.

Kahre Org is providing Meal Kits and PPE in Ecuador

When the initiatives of Kahre Org, a nonprofit organization located in Ecuador, came to a halt at the beginning of the pandemic, they had to readjust their scope of work to suit the new needs that arose. Before the pandemic, Kahre Org offered community outreach. This included providing communities with access to legal services, shelters, education and provisions. The organization has adapted and refocused its efforts to now provide meal kits and PPE during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The organization started with those in rural Ecuador and continued its efforts to frontline workers and the medical community. Consequently, the Kahre Org minimized food insecurity while also creating additional jobs for impoverished and unemployed individuals.

How it Works

By partnering with the Ecuadorian armed forces, Kahre Org was able to deliver more than 100,000 meal kits across Ecuador. These meal kits offer stability to vulnerable individuals. It meant they could focus on finding employment, recovering from the pandemic or taking care of their families rather than worrying about where their next meals would come from. Along with these meal kits came important medical supplies. This included sanitization products and PPE to further help Ecuadorians stay fed and healthy. As many of these rural communities are far from hospitals and medical care, such protective equipment is extremely important.

Moreover, the Kahre Org saw an opportunity with the pandemic to expand their preexisting Child Food Programme. This initiative provides more than 100 Ecuadorian children with two meals a day. It was able to travel to small, local communities and offer children food to minimize their food insecurity. This simultaneously creates more job opportunities for Ecuadorians who wish to work with the organization.

To further the hard work of the Kahre Org in Ecuadorian communities, the local organization extended its helping hand past rural communities to the frontline workers. The organization managed to provide hundreds of Red Cross workers, government corps, doctors and other health care providers with meal kits.

Looking Ahead

By amassing donations and formulating a thorough response plan, the Kahre Org mobilized and inspired Ecuadorians to give back to their communities. In the process, the organization was able to educate rural Ecuadorians of the dangers of the virus and how to minimize the spread and stay healthy. Through providing meal kits and PPE, thousands of Ecuadorians are receiving the resources they need to fight the pandemic.

– Caroline Largoza
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Ecuador
Human Trafficking has become a global and commonplace issue that hampers the needs and will of millions of people around the world. Human trafficking rings have become commonplace in Ecuador, a South American country with a population of more than 17 million people and 4 million in poverty. Criminal organizations have targeted people in Ecuador so they can attain wealth and power in a place full of unemployment and economic struggles. However, many new programs have emerged to combat human trafficking in Ecuador including a joint campaign between the Ecuadorian government, the U.N. and the U.S. government.

The History Behind Trafficking

Researchers at the University of New Mexico reported that 5,000 yearly cases of child kidnappings have occurred related to human trafficking in Ecuador since the beginning of the early 21st century. The researchers also found that 80% of all cases involved women and girls. Ecuador’s human trafficking situation began as a serious issue that consumed the country of Ecuador starting in the early 1980s but has picked up steam in the last five years.

The crumbling economics of South American countries like Ecuador and neighboring Venezuela has created an influx of migration, mainly between Venezuela and Ecuador. These individuals have become susceptible to trafficking rings that use them for illegal activity such as child labor or domestic service upon plantations, fishing plants and mines to name just a few. Although many trafficking rings have operated without interaction, Ecuador has started a change within the country, stemming from outside help, to establish a better protective wall against illegal human trafficking. As mentioned in the article from the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC), “According to the 2018 UNODC Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, 72 per cent of detected human trafficking victims are women and girls. Ecuador fits this trend, but groups such as people with disabilities, returned migrants, indigenous communities, and youth with access to the Internet are also vulnerable.”

The Reasons for Human Trafficking in Ecuador

Human trafficking in Ecuador has become a commonplace issue due to its weak monetary and social infrastructure. Many people are out of jobs and live off dangerous side hustles, resulting in them being a target for many trafficking groups. A recent profile of human trafficking in different regions of Ecuador from scholars at The University of New Mexico found that traffickers are likely to target certain individuals. Many of these individuals are immigrants who come from neighboring countries like Venezuela, which has been suffering financially for the last decade. Discriminated groups like the LGBTQ community are also likely to fall into human trafficking in Ecuador.

Solutions

Although human trafficking has become a growing epidemic in Ecuador, various measures and movements have emerged to dictate a change from within Ecuador, a country that had a poverty rate of higher than 24% in 2017. One of those changes was the introduction of increased international support from the U.S. The U.S. Department of State has recommended stronger prosecution laws regarding the criminalization of labor traffickers. As a result, Ecuador’s laws prescribe penalties from 13 to 16 years of imprisonment as opposed to the previous penalties of an average of 8 years.

The Ecuadorian government has also dictated a new code of ways to prevent human trafficking in Ecuador. With the U.S. government, it created a campaign named #AQUIESTOY with the intention of creating an awareness of human trafficking in the country. The campaign reached over 88 million people by April 2019. Ecuador also established a hotline that people can use to counter human trafficking situations.

Along with a stronger force of prosecution and prevention, protections have emerged for human trafficking victims. Units such as the Office of the Prosecutor General’s formal witness protection program (SPAVT) provide aid to victims of human trafficking by granting them medical care, legal provisions, aid in garnering employment or accessing education and more. Reports determined that investigative and financial support of up to $400,000 went towards helping victims and potential victims.

Concluding Thoughts

Ecuador is an ever-developing country that kidnappings and trafficking have hit. However, the situation should be able to improve with help from the Ecuadorian government as well as outside sources. With more time and support, human trafficking in the country can become an unlikely tragedy rather than an everyday situation.

– Mario Perales
Photo: Flickr

gas flaringSince the area’s first oil well was drilled into the Ecuadoran Amazon in 1967, the surrounding population has been plagued with pollution and has suffered various health risks. This is primarily due to the gas flaring that has been ongoing for decades. It is impossible to reverse the harmful effects of the oil industry, but the situation is being addressed as Ecuador fights to eradicate gas flaring.

What is Gas Flaring?

Gas flaring is the controlled process of burning excess natural gasses for more efficient fuel extraction and production. Although in some cases it can be more cost-effective, the process of gas flaring is ultimately more harmful than advantageous. The issue with gas flaring relates to the harmful pollutants it emits. There is currently no standard chemical composition of flare gas. Almost all flare stacks release methane and black carbon into the air. The emission of black carbon, in particular, has negative impacts on human health and contributes to more than seven million deaths a year.

Today, there are 447 gas flares in the Ecuadoran Amazon. These flares have been in operation for decades and impact the health of the local population. These flares burn at a dangerous 750 degrees Fahrenheit, 24 hours a day, all year round. The surrounding communities lack proper protection against dangerous pollutants. The most destructive effects include not only cancer but miscarriages and severe genetic deformities.

Poverty in Ecuador

A majority of communities affected by the gas flare stacks are based in rural regions of Ecuador. These areas are more affected by poverty. In trying to develop protection from the harmful pollutants that gas flares emit, the communities are unable to progress economically. The poverty rate of Ecuador, last documented at around 24% in 2018, only continues to increase as gas flaring creates health impacts that further stress the country’s financial situation. The burning of natural gas results in significant losses in potential revenue.

Eradicating Gas Flaring

The path to first recognizing and finally beginning to assess the situation began with the uprise of cases involving the violation of basic human rights that gas flaring creates. Several gas flares are located within residential communities with effects spanning more than 180 miles. Local citizens sued the state-owned oil company, PetroAmazonas, and other relevant parties, for the use of gas flaring and the damages it has caused. The court ruled that the action violates constitutional rights to health, a healthy environment and sustainable development. Furthermore, the court expressed that the state has an obligation to implement policies that protect people against negative environmental impacts. The case builds upon the 26-year lawsuit against oil giant, Texaco-Chevron, to demand reparation in the same region for what is deemed the “Amazon Chernobyl,” one of the most severe oil-related disasters globally.

Looking Ahead

Ecuador is addressing the situation with the first step being a court order to end gas flaring in the Ecuadorian oil industry. Compensation and reparation to those affected are also essential parts of achieving justice. The ruling is a victory not just for the victims but the country as a whole. The decision shows Ecuador’s commitment to protecting the health of its people and its environment while upholding the human rights of Ecuadorians.

– Caroline Kratz
Photo:Flickr

Technology in the Amazon
The Amazon rainforest in Ecuador is an extremely biodiverse ecosystem vital to the survival of more than 70 indigenous communities. Alianza Ceibo is an organization that unites these communities in the Ecuadorian rainforest. Four different indigenous groups run it with the purpose of improving their people’s livelihoods and protecting over 20,000 square kilometers of the rainforest from environmental degradation. This article will examine how technology in the Amazon empowers these indigenous communities.

About Alianza Ceibo

The Alliance received the 2020 United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Equator Prize for its efforts to support women entrepreneurs and connect remote communities with solar energy and clean drinking water. The Alliance also provides lawyers to represent the individual communities in land rights cases. As for the use of technology in the Amazon, the Alliance advocates for mapping systems to document indigenous stewardship of the rainforest, and monitoring systems to hold illegal trespassers accountable. The specific technology Alianza Ceibo and other organizations are using includes mapping technology, such as the Global Positioning System (GPS), drones, satellites and blockchain.

Mapping Technology

In the Amazon rainforest in northern Ecuador, the four indigenous ethnic groups that founded the Alianza Ceibo — the Siona, Waorani, Kofan and Secoya — use mapping technology to fight illegal development on their land. Mapping applications can document native plants, important cultural sites, near-extinct animals and geographical spots vital to the community’s well-being. The use of mapping technology in the Amazon’s indigenous communities demonstrates how the indigenous people’s culture, land and livelihoods inextricably link.

The Counter-Mapping Project

The Waorani indigenous group uses mapping technology for its counter-mapping project in the village Amisacho. Digital Democracy, a nonprofit based in California, supports this technology. The work of the counter-mapping project aims to provide an alternative map to the typical government maps only showing square footage and natural resources. The Waorani’s map documents the rich history and cultural significance of the rainforest that they and other indigenous ethnic groups call home. Indigenous leaders of the Waorani, leaders of the Kofan, Secoya and Siona and international activists have all worked together to provide the most accurate representation of the link between people and land.

In a Sierra magazine article, the counter-mapping project’s leader Opi Nenquimo said “Our map shows all of the things that don’t have a price…Building it we also build our communities.” The Waorani do not just use maps to show outsiders the significance of their land. They also use it to teach their younger generations to honor and steward land which their ancestors have defended since the Inca. Using technology in the Amazon’s remote communities can be very useful and empowering, but it is not a replacement for indigenous knowledge and practices that members of the indigenous community passed down through generations.

In 2018, the Waorani used data gathered on Digital Democracy’s mapping application Mapeo, to sue the Ecuadorian government for not asking consent to begin a drilling project. The Waorani, with support from Digital Democracy and Amazon Frontlines, won the case in April 2019. It set an important precedent for future land rights cases in Ecuador and around the world.

Drones and Satellites

Drones that can take satellite images or videos illustrate another effective type of technology being employed in the Amazon rainforest. Drone technology allows people to monitor vast swaths of land in a short amount of time, and to hover over areas that may be difficult to reach on foot. Technicians monitor footage derived from the drones and then contact the relevant indigenous group. With their knowledge, understanding and presence in the forest, indigenous people can make the best decision on how to deal with a potential threat.

Indigenous groups protect nearly a quarter of the Amazon and deforestation affects most of them, which is why it is so important that they are at the forefront of environmental efforts. Speaking to the importance of supporting the communities that live in the rainforest, Suzanne Pelletier, director of the Rainforest Foundation U.S. (RFUS) said, “These are not just trees, these are not just lands, it’s such a virtual part of their culture, it’s how they maintain their health and wellbeing.” To destroy the rainforest is to destroy indigenous people’s livelihood.

RFUS is another nonprofit supporting the use of technology in the Amazon. The organization works directly with indigenous communities, focused in Panama, Guayana, Peru and Brazil. RFUS employs drones and, most recently, blockchain technology.

Blockchain Technology

Blockchain is a public digital registry that timestamps and records transactions, providing the opportunity to make real-time financial transactions without having to go through banks or other institutions. At this point, many still consider blockchain experimental, but the promise of transparency, complete digitization and worldwide access are driving its implementation. This form of technology in the Amazon is new, but for RFUS, it is full of promise.

RFUS uses a blockchain that the Regen Network, a computing and technology development group, developed. RFUS’s pilot program is in the indigenous Ticuna community of Buen Jardin de Callarú in Peru, but the organization hopes to expand the use of this registry across the Amazon. The pilot group agreed to protect 1,000 hectares of forest. In the first year, it plans to save 70 hectares and plant at least 7,000 trees. The group will receive compensation for its work using blockchain technology.

A big problem in forest conservation has been how to support the people actually doing the work on the ground, the same people deforestation most harms. Blockchain offers a possible solution and RFUS has been successful in utilizing it in Peru. In June 2020, RUFUS reported that the Buen Jardin De Callarú community and others working with it were able to reduce the deforestation rate from 10% annually to zero between 2018 and 2020, and obtained pay for their work with blockchain.

These three different technological innovations have demonstrated how indigenous communities in the Amazon are able to fight modern threats with modern technology. The Amazon rainforest and indigenous communities link together, dependent on each other for a healthy and long life. The use of technology in the Amazon empowers indigenous groups to effectively protect the rainforest and thereby also their livelihoods.

– Caitlin Harjes
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 In Ecuador
Since early on in the COVID-19 pandemic, Ecuador has exemplified how important testing is for regulating the number of coronavirus deaths. Ecuador is a small country on the western coast of South America. It is a country that was already struggling with an uncertain economy. Its greatest generator of wealth is crude oil exportation, which underwent severe damage when oil prices drastically fell at the beginning of the pandemic. Ecuador has continued to produce low numbers in terms of virus cases per capita. However, the huge rise in deaths recently is an alarming sign that the test numbers provided are not capturing the whole picture of COVID-19 in Ecuador.

Numbers vs. Reality

Ecuador has reported a total of 130,000 COVID-19 cases since February 2020. Doctor and public health specialist Esteban Ortiz estimates that the actual number is around 2.1 million. This estimate comes in part from the number of deaths being much higher than it should be for the given numbers of cases. Part of the issue is that the country is lacking the infrastructure necessary to handle the pandemic. Since Ecuador was already struggling financially, the government was not able to properly staff and equip hospitals. This meant that it was not able to provide enough outreach and testing locations.

The lack of testing also meant that Ecuador was not able to keep up with the number of deaths occurring. This resulted from its inability to accurately predict what would happen. Between March and mid-April 2020, the Guayas province, where Ecuador’s largest city Guayaquil is located, reported around 14,500 deaths. The average number of monthly deaths in this province was 2,000. The health system became overwhelmed and unable to keep up with the rise in deaths coming from an unknown number of cases. The number became so overwhelming that estimates determined that the actual death toll is 15 times higher than the official number of COVID-19 deaths the government reported.

Tracking the Effects of the Virus

One can also track the impact of COVID-19 in Ecuador by looking at unemployment. By June 2020, unemployment reached 13.3%, drastically higher than 3.8% where it was just six months earlier. Statistics also found that around 67% of workers were underemployed during this time. Additionally, extreme poverty in Ecuador nearly doubled between 2019 and 2020. These economic pressures brought great stress upon the country. It was clear that the economy and the people were struggling monetarily. Reopening the country also seemed to be a massive risk, however, due to the unknown number of cases.

Another factor is the large population of refugees in Ecuador. Ecuador has one of the highest South American refugee populations at around 70,000 and close to 385,000 asylum seekers. These people have entitlement to government medical assistance but do not always receive the aid in practice. The U.N. refugee agency UNHCR is working to detect COVID-19 in these communities and provide services. UNHCR has also worked to train and equip six other community organizations around Ecuador to work at a more local level. These groups work through phone hotlines and home visits to identify cases and notify the community in an effort to slow the spread of the virus in these at-risk communities.

Ecuador in Recovery

In recent weeks, Ecuador has begun to regain control as the number of deaths has dropped off. The government has received money from private donors and other governments to bolster its medical system by better funding and equipping its hospitals. As Ecuador begins to build back, it is worth noting how a country with an already unstable economy and an ill-equipped medical system can experience devastation in a short period of time by the virus. It seems that the worst is over for COVID-19 in Ecuador, but its story serves as a warning of the possible dangers of pandemics in developing countries.

Jackson Bramhall
Photo: Flickr

Fighting Child Poverty in EcuadorChild poverty in Ecuador is on the rise in Ecuador, resulting in poorer standards of living and higher rates of child mortality. Efforts from organizations around the world are successfully fighting against this, promoting the health and education of Ecuador’s youth.

Ecuador’s Poverty Rate

Ecuador is a South American country located on the West Coast of the continent. Northwest of Peru and southwest of Colombia, Ecuador is home to 17.4 million people. Ecuador’s name is derived from its location on the Equator, and the nation is located in both hemispheres of the world.

Ecuador’s poverty rate has fluctuated over the past several years. In 2007, 36.7% of its people lived in poverty. Additionally, Ecuador’s poverty was reduced to 21.5%. However, poverty started rising again recently, and as of 2019, over 25% of Ecuador’s population was impoverished. This means that over a quarter of Ecuador’s 17.4 million people, or about 4.4 million people, live under the national poverty line.

Child poverty in Ecuador is a severe issue. Children in Ecuador are disproportionately impoverished in comparison to the general population. Over 40% of children in Ecuador live in poverty, which is well above the 25% poverty rate of the general population.

Malnutrition does the most damage in adolescence, creating health difficulties that can last for a lifetime. Poverty in adolescence also sets up children to have a lower standard of living, as they are denied crucial education opportunities that would allow them greater future success. Child poverty is also strongly correlated with poor academic performance and early school abandonment.

Children International: Fighting Child Poverty

Fighting child poverty in Ecuador is a focus of multiple organizations in the United States. These initiatives focus on targeting the malnutrition and dwindling health of Ecuador’s children.

Children International, a non-governmental organization (NGO), aims to transform the lives of Ecuador’s youth by addressing hunger, among other necessities. Through its “Nutrition Program,” tens of thousands of children in Ecuador that are malnourished or at-risk for malnourishment are supported. Not only are the children fed, but Children International also provides medical check-ups and holds nutritional training workshops.

The organization also targets impoverished children’s educational opportunities as they “typically don’t have the skills, resources or knowledge to succeed.” Through its Social and Financial Education program, children in Ecuador are learning the skills to secure successful careers, how to be more resourceful and even how to “believe in themselves.” Through this, Children International is breaking the cycle of generational poverty.

Looking Forward

Other organizations are leading the fight against poverty as well. United to Benefit Ecuadorian Children International (UBECI), another NGO, is a prime example. UBECI takes independent action to address the lacking educational, medical and emotional support resources available to Ecuador’s youth. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has also been a key proponent in addressing child poverty in Ecuador. USAID funding has increased access to medicinal treatments for mothers and children in Ecuador, as well as support child education through the creation of schools and higher education programs.

Assistance from various organizations around the world is paramount toward combatting child poverty in Ecuador. While these projects have substantially improved the health and welfare of Ecuadorian children, there is still much to be done to address the child poverty that accounts for one in four children in Ecuador.

– Asa Scott
Photo: Flickr

Raspberry Pi“Ciudad de Ariel” is an elementary school in the rural town of Duran, Ecuador. In this small school, people are studying a computer substitute that could change the world called Raspberry Pi. This life changing computer is a small chip that can fit in a hand.

The Technological Gap

For many developing countries, technology is out of the picture. The general growth in technology proficiency has evaded developing countries. They often cannot afford internet access and computers in all schools, so children and young adults suffer in technological skills. Furthermore, other challenges of poverty, like food insecurity and lack of water, take priority to learning how to use a computer.

The problem is that technology can actually provide large benefits for developing countries. The internet offers vast amounts of information and programming to serve any need. If developing countries have access to computers, the ability to decrease poverty levels can be more feasible. Unfortunately, most computers are specialized, expensive and hard to produce. Previously, developing countries lacked the budget for technology advancement and access. But now, the Raspberry Pi offers tech opportunities to people all over the world.

The Device

There are many unique aspects of the Raspberry Pi that separate it from normal computers. First, its price is affordable; it has a base cost of $35. This is significantly cheaper than any other computer chip on the market. As such, some schools in areas of poverty are using Raspberry Pis in their computer labs.

Another unique aspect of the Raspberry Pi is it’s small form. The Raspberry Pi 4, the most recent model, is only 3.37 inches high and 2.22 inches wide. An entire computer lab of Raspberry Pis can fit in a suitcase. Not only is the computer chip small, it is also incredibly light, weighing only 46 grams. Therefore, the Raspberry Pi is easily portable. This is an important factor as many schools in developing countries are in rural, hard-to-reach areas.

Finally, the Raspberry Pi is famous for its versatility. Most computers are made to do specific tasks. Whether it is running a server, rendering 3D graphics, or browsing the internet, each computer has distinct hardware for its purpose. The Raspberry Pi, on the other hand, is capable of handling almost any task. For example, it can be used as a traditional desktop computer, a server or as a basic computer chip to automate mechanical devices. This allows people to use the device for any function they need.

Due to the Raspberry Pi’s unique capabilities, it has the capability to be highly successful in advancing technology for developing countries.

Real-World Examples

A recent study found that the Raspberry Pi provides a cost-effective approach in building computer labs for schools in developing countries. The success of the pilot project conducted in the elementary school in Duran, Ecuador corroborated this finding. Computer labs have also been built in Cameroon and West Africa. It’s not an entire lab, but a project called Malinux Télé donated Raspberry Pis to children in Mali.

The computer has impacts beyond education. An automated loom was developed using a Raspberry Pi. The designers of this loom found it to be cheaper than traditional automated looms. Another project found a cheap way to purify water using a Raspberry Pi.

The little computer has been able to accomplish tremendous things. From computer labs in Ecuador and West Africa to automated looms and water purifiers, the Raspberry Pi has proven to be a force for good and can change how developing countries access technology.

Evan Weber
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in Ecuador
There are currently 17.7 million people calling Ecuador home — but a home with a poverty problem. The overall population living on less than $3.20 per day in Ecuador has been decreasing since 2010 but poverty remains an issue. The result is severe homelessness in Ecuador. It is a struggle many who live there have in common. The poverty rate of people who live on $5.50 a day has fluctuated between 24% and 23% since 2015 according to some figures. This has forced many to live on the streets with no place to call home. Natural disasters and unemployment are other risk factors one can point to — causing people to lose their homes.

Natural Disasters

The main natural disasters that play a role in the high rate of homelessness in Ecuador are floods, earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions. Natural disasters impact almost 87,000 people in the country, every day. From 1980 to 2010, about 2.6 million people suffered from natural disasters. In 2008, more than 300,000 people required movement to temporary housing due to a flood. In 2016, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake killed 700 people and crushed many buildings — a big portion of them being homes. The earthquake destroyed around 35,000 homes. At the time, it was the worst earthquake in almost three decades. Many people had to leave their destroyed homes, changing their whole lives in just a moment.

Unemployment Rates

An increasing unemployment rate exacerbates the issue of homelessness in Ecuador. The unemployment rate in the country was declining — dropping from 5.21% in 2016 to 3.69% in 2018. Since then, it has increased from 2018 with the current rate being at 6.48%. Taking that percentage out of the current population results in 1.1 million people unemployed. Likewise, these people are prone to having to leave their homes or unable to afford housing.

A big part of this issue is the fact that the economy is not growing at a comfortable or suitable rate. This is due to companies having to leave the country and Ecuador’s inability to manage its resources. These living conditions make it incredibly difficult to afford available housing and provide for children and other life needs.

Solutions

While these problems seem very difficult to improve, some are undertaking projects to bring available housing to Ecuadorians who do not have it. The shelter support volunteer project in Quito, Ecuador is a one to 12-week program where participants travel to Quito and help local shelters feed and support local Ecuadorians. The program places 10 to 20 volunteers per month to help out the communities, five hours per day. Tasks for the volunteers include: serving meals, doing laundry, cleaning, maintenance and other living essentials. Volunteers also help educate the youth and work to provide housing for the children and many other Ecuadorians experiencing homelessness.

The Manna Project International is another organization that focuses heavily on bettering the lives of Ecuadorians. The project has two teams — one that works in Ecuador and the other in Nicaragua. Roles on the team involve an Ecuador Site Coordinator, a community development fellow, program directors and volunteer community advisors. In response to some of the shortcomings such as homelessness in Ecuador, the team puts together professional job development workshops. This way, they educate the people there and develop small businesses to help people find jobs. The end goal is to provide Ecuadorians the ability to gain an income suitable enough to afford housing.

Dorian Ducre
Photo: Pxhere