The 7.8 magnitude earthquake that shook Ecuador back in April left behind serious damages across the country. 120,000 displaced children were forced to leave school as they were uprooted and their schools were damaged.
“Education is a lifeline for children going through the trauma of chaos and destruction,” said Grant Leaity, UNICEF Representative in Ecuador. “It helps give them a daily routine and a sense of purpose and puts them on track for psychological recovery.”
To ensure children continue their education during this time, UNICEF is building temporary education centers. They are working to install fifty temporary spaces to hold classes in, and are giving out 700 “school in a box” kits. These kits come a variety of school supplies, including chalk, slates and notebooks. UNICEF’s goal is to reach about 80,000 children with these measures, ensuring that they do not fall any farther behind.
Other organizations are taking similar measures. Plan International is building safe spaces for children which include temporary education centers as well. “We know that children are going to be among the most affected by this disaster, so it is of the utmost importance to work quickly and efficiently to help girls and boys cope with the stress of what they’ve been through and give them the space to express themselves in a safe and secure environment,” said Rossana Viteri, director of Plan International Ecuador.
Additionally, these centers will provide training to parents on how to help their children during this time. Training programs include hygiene, sanitation and safety. The goal is to protect the livelihoods of displaced children across the country. The health training is important, because UNICEF reports that thousands of displaced children are at a heightened risk of disease. The risk is highest in coastal areas, which have been deemed “hotspots” for diseases such as Zika and malaria.
For groups like UNICEF and Plan International, ensuring children maintain the best possible living standards is one of the top priorities while Ecuador rebuilds. If children can maintain their education through this crisis, they will be better equipped to someday return to school.
– Emily Milakovic