The two devastating large-scale earthquakes that rattled Ecuador’s coast over this past week and left villages in ruins were the deadliest the country experienced since 1987.
The Andean nation was initially struck by a 7.8-magnitude earthquake last Saturday. In total, more than 570 people died, more than 7,000 people are injured, and hundreds are missing. As people sought shelter, aid and food for survival, a second 6.0-magnitude earthquake struck the coast just four days later. Less mentioned in the news are the 23 small-scale earthquakes that have occurred as aftershock.
Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa announced on television the earthquake’s financial implications, including a tax increase to help pay for the millions of dollars needed for repair. "Rebuilding the affected areas will take years and cost millions of dollars," President Correa said. "The short term costs are significant."
The country quickly implemented disaster relief efforts. Soccer stadium and airports were transformed into shelters for more than 25,000 people. Ten thousand Ecuadorian soldiers and 4,600 police officers were deployed. However, collapsed infrastructure has hindered many people’s journey to safe points. Rural areas near Pedernales, one of the towns hit worst, are especially handicapped. Adults wait in line for food and water and children hold signs begging for food.
Volunteers have poured into the country to provide relief through mobile hospitals and temporary shelters. Neighborhoods have turned into checkpoints for donations.
Partners of the Americas stands with Ecuador during this time of need. Our longstanding relationship with the country began in 1965, when our Kentucky and Ecuador chapters were partnered together for lasting educational and cultural exchanges, as well as development projects. Over the years, these have included civic and classroom education, youth and sports exchanges, women’s empowerment and employment initiatives, visual and performing arts exchanges, and more.
Retired dentist Dr. Rankin Skinner, a member of Partners’ Kentucky chapter and founder of Ecuador Dental Health Initiative, has been traveling to Ecuador for more than 14 years through his chapter. “Everybody, we know all the politicians, we know all the principals of the schools, we know all the teachers, the kids,” Dr. Skinner told LEX18 news.
In the 1990’s the Kentucky-Ecuador chapters played a major role in implementing Ecuador’s emergency preparedness program, which focused on planning procedures for schools including evacuation planning and response to mass casualties. The chapters developed a 911 center and an in-country interagency emergency planning committee, with grant funding from USAID Office of Disaster Management.
Most recently, our Kentucky chapter hosted Ecuadorian artist Enriquestuardo for a gallery show. Enriquestuardo paints life-like portraits of indigenous people on doors, and his art garnered the attention of the Consul of Ecuador in Chicago, Carlos Lenin Housse Dávalos. Enriquestuardo was invited to return to the U.S. for an art show at Chicago’s Instituto Cervantes this May.
Partners’ international office has also been heavily involved with Ecuador through our programs. Partners’ EducaFuturo program is currently active in Ecuador, partnered with local agencies FUDELA, ExpoFlores and Communidec. Our program headquarters are stationed in a province right beside Manabi, where the epicenter of the earthquake took place. We were relieved to learn that our field staff are safe and await next steps.
Partners’ Kentucky chapter is collecting donations for Ecuador’s disaster relief. Our chapter knows the country and its people. They hold deep relationships with government agencies and local organizations that will ensure funds are allocated for their best use. Please send your donations to Austin Cantor, Partners of the Americas Kentucky chapter’s Treasurer.
Partners of the Americas
Kentucky chapter Treasurer
1905 Alexandria Dr.
Lexington KY 40504
If you would prefer donating online, a group of Ecuadorian physicians studying in the U.S. have set up a GoFundMe that we recommend as an alternative. Click here.