Poverty in Ecuador
Ecuador is a country located in Western South America and lies between Colombia and Peru. The country has struggled with political instability and experienced economic crises throughout its history. In 2019, 25% of the population still lived below the poverty line. However, recent economic growth does leave a glimmer of hope for the alleviation of poverty in Ecuador. Here are five facts about poverty in Ecuador.

5 Facts About Poverty in Ecuador

  1. The incidence of poverty is higher in indigenous populations. As ethnic minorities and indigenous populations mainly work and live in the rural sector, they are the ones who poverty and income inequality mostly affects. There are approximately 1.1 million indigenous people in Ecuador. When looking at Ecuador’s geographical breakdown — 24.1% reside in the Amazon, 7.3% in the Southern Mountains, 8.3% in the Coastal region and on the Galapagos Islands and 60.3% reside in the Central-North Mountains’ six provinces. Among the population in the Central-North Mountains region, 87.5% continue to reside in rural areas. According to the data from 2007 by ENEMDU, Ecuadorians experienced an ethnic wage gap of a staggering 44.9%. Those who work in the agricultural sector also have the lowest financial return — earning 30% less in their hourly wages than those who work in the informal sector.
  2. The government has made efforts to resolve economic issues and alleviate poverty. During the economic instability of 1999–2000, the government created multiple reforms to resolve these issues. For example, it established the U.S. dollar as a legal currency in 2001. This eventually stimulated change and brought stability to the economy. The government also developed national programs to alleviate issues surrounding poverty and further increased funding. Additionally, it facilitated access to quality education and healthcare by arranging cash transfer programs that mandated Ecuadorians to educate their children and provide them with regular medical care if they wanted to participate in the program.
  3. The value of oil causes fluctuations in Ecuador’s economic stability. The fact that oil is one of Ecuador’s main exports reveals how dependent Ecuador’s economy is on the availability and value of these natural resources. The oil boom of the early 2000s gave the government incentive to expand poverty alleviating programs, raise the minimum wage and increase social security benefits. However, as the price of oil began to deteriorate in 2014, poverty rates in Ecuador surged once again and led to an economic recession in 2016. The GDP (gross domestic product) growth in annual percentage plummeted from 7.87% in 2011 to -1.23% in 2016.
  4. Ecuador has been experiencing relative economic growth in recent years. Beginning in 2016, the GDP growth in the annual percentage rose to 2.37% in 2017 and remained in the positive margins at 0.05% in 2019. Another perspective is that the GDP per capita rose from $6,100 in 2016 to $6,200 in 2019. Furthermore, the GNI (gross national income) per capita calculated using the Atlas method, rose from $5,800 in 2016 to $6,100 in 2019. With these numerical facts about poverty in Ecuador, the situation appears to be moving in a positive direction.
  5. FEVI Ecuador is an NGO group that is working to alleviate poverty in Ecuador. FEVI Ecuador is a locally managed NGO (non-governmental organization) committed to building up intercultural education and social development projects that assist native communities. The organization is an accredited, full member of the UNESCO Coordinating Committee for International Volunteer Service, Mesa de Voluntariado and even received the appointment as the Latin American representative for CCIVS organizations in Latin America. Some examples of the various projects that the NGO partakes in – the organization has established a child care center, various schools, a health center and an elderly people center. At the “Muñequitos¨ FEVI Child Care Center in Lumbisi, the volunteers help the teachers and mothers in caring, educating and entertaining the 60 preschoolers in the community. This community of course comprises the indigenous population. The volunteers also help at “El Comedor,” or the dining hall, by preparing food and providing activities for the elderly. Furthermore, FEVI Ecuador established a community health center for low-income populations in Cumbaya — where volunteers assist the medical professionals who are serving the native community. Finally, FEVI Ecuador volunteers work at the elementary school in the Cotacachi and Tonsupa communities with 160 students at each school, respectively.

A Positive Outlook

Despite the economic challenges that Ecuadorians faced in the past, the statistics reveal hope for the country in the years to come. The GDP and GNI have both increased over the years with the help of government reforms and the resilience of the Ecuadorian people, despite the economic instability in the past few decades and the recession in 2016. Although indigenous people in Ecuador continue to experience a significant impact from the ethnic wage gap, many volunteers have partnered with NGOs to alleviate the symptoms of poverty. With the tremendous efforts of the local government and the international community’s continuous support in alleviating poverty in Ecuador — there may come a day when Ecuador captures its freedom from devastating financial burdens.

San Sung Kim
Photo: Flickr

children in Ecuador
A simple Google search for “Ecuador orphans,” expected to provide factual information, instead it presents a plethora of pages touting orphanages to donate to, opportunities to volunteer in Ecuador, children to adopt and personal fundraising pages. Even with some keyword tweaking, clearly orphans in Ecuador have abundant needs, but very few scholarly or news articles provide coverage of the issues. In an effort to fill that apparent statistical lack, orphans in Ecuador relate to the country’s poverty and crime rates in eight factual ways.

Eight Facts About Poverty, Crime and Orphans in Ecuador

  1. Ecuador is part of a global crisis for children born in poverty. Of the children who live in orphanages worldwide, about 80 percent have at least one living parent. Since AIDS took the lives of so many parents, UNICEF changed its definition of an orphan in the 1990s to children, those under 18 years old, who have at least one deceased parent. Under this new lens, there are about 140 million orphans worldwide. Many of them, unsurprisingly, are located in some of the poorest countries in the world. Asia has 61 million orphans, and Africa has 52 million. Ecuador falls into the geographical location in third place for most orphans, as Latin America and the Caribbean have 10 million between them. The most common reason cited for living parents placing their children in orphanages is an inability to afford food.
  2. Developed countries have responded to poverty and orphans in Ecuador incorrectly because of this nuanced terminology. Countries like the U.S., that only consider children with two deceased parents to be orphans, tend to interpret global statistics about orphans as reflecting the number of children who need homes. Many well-intentioned efforts then provide for the needs of individual children instead of combating the poverty in their families that sent them to orphanages. Thus, parents continue sending their children away to these homes because that is where the resources are funneled.
  3. Ecuador’s government had historically attempted to respond to poverty by channeling money in the wrong places. It too has tried to help needy families by funding orphanages instead of providing social programs for individuals and families to eventually be able to take care of their families without having to send children away. This would prevent perpetuating the orphan crisis by discouraging parents who believe their children will be better provided for in orphanages than at home.
  4. Institutionalizing children has proven to have negative effects on their development behavior, causing many to remain in poverty after they leave their orphanages. The government makes little effort to monitor harsh punishments and sexual abuse, leaving children psychologically damaged and creating a barrier to fending for themselves. Even for those who do not live in abusive situations, orphanages often constrain children socially, keeping them insulated among a relatively small group of peers, and then release children suddenly into the world, with little training and life experience to prepare them emotionally or academically for obtaining jobs and housing.
  5. Restore17 connects orphans in Ecuador with the country’s crime rates. Restore17 is a charity that does not pop up in the initial onslaught of Google results for “Ecuador orphans,” but deserves to be highlighted. Their mission statement reads: “Restore17 seeks to prevent boys from being exploited by providing them with hope and a future through holistic Christ-centered care.” Tangibly, they do this by working with orphans in Ecuador at a children’s home because 70 percent of males who grow up in orphanages eventually become criminals as well as face elevated rates for suicide and depression and heightened risk of involvement in human trafficking and gangs.
  6. Restore17 seeks to interrupt this progression from orphans in Ecuador to criminals by partnering with a children’s home for boys to provide holistic care. This involves attempts to meet spiritual needs, providing hygiene products, meals, healthcare, help with homework, technical training and attempting to give them a fun childhood with outings and birthday parties. Restore17 is also attempting to provide for male orphans in Ecuador after they turn 18 by building Casa Esperanza. This home will allow them an opportunity for transition past when orphanages will house them, giving them time to enter full adulthood. The vision is to help both the truly parentless young men who still need a place to live and those who have moved back with their families. By providing a space where wifi, school supplies and tutoring and mentoring are available, Restore17 hopes to reduce the necessity of turning to lives of crime.
  7. The total rate of orphans globally is declining, and Ecuador has contributed to this by allocating more funds relieving poverty through different means than funding orphanages. Since estimates about the number of orphans peaked in 2001, the rate has decreased on an average of 7 percent a year. Ecuador has shifted to combating poverty at its root instead of after children that have already been affected to such an extent that they end up in orphanages. A government spokesperson specifically cited efforts to make homes safe for those who could not afford to do so independently. The United Nations has applauded their commitment of resources, and the numbers seem successful. The country’s poverty rate has dropped by 14 percent since 2006. Extreme poverty has decreased by 50 percent since then, boding well for the creation of fewer orphans in Ecuador.
  8. However, orphans in Ecuador from rural regions that face higher poverty rates remain at a disadvantage. Poverty is concentrated in rural areas in Ecuador, where 70 percent of the population was poor in 2000, as opposed to 13.7 percent of the urban population. The numbers of children in poverty in these rural regions are staggering. For example, in the province of Bolivar, 91 percent of children and adolescents are poor, with Chimborazo and Esmereldas following close behind. This reveals the need for Ecuador to keep addressing poverty at the source for the sake of all of these children who could become part of the orphan crisis.

Clearly, such a system that inadvertently funnels non-orphans into institutions and perpetuates poverty must be directly combated. However, organizations like Restore17 enter into the present reality to provide stable homes and equip boys to overcome poverty as men. It is a good beginning. Such efforts should help create a new financially capable and empowered generation that will be able to raise their children at home and above the poverty line.

– Charlotte Preston

Photo: Flickr