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By Annie Bergman, Silvana Gonzalez and Jason Woods

Earthquake victims
Heifer Ecuador's staff and project participants banded together to support victims of the April 16 quake.

On April 16, the strongest earthquake to hit South America in decades struck Ecuador’s coast, killing 663 people, injuring more than 36,000 and leaving about 28,000 people temporarily homeless.

The epicenter of the 7.8-magnitude earthquake was 16 miles from Muisne in the province of Esmeraldas, where Heifer International Ecuador is actively working to restore the endangered mangroves and help fishing families tap new sources of income as their catches dwindle.

All Heifer participants survived, but the earthquake forced the evacuation of the entire population of Muisne and razed the village of Santa Rosa, where project participants were living. Electricity and clean water supplies were cut off in Muisne and were difficult to access at temporary shelters.

Heifer project participants in the province of Manabí, where there is great potential in cacao farming, faced substantial property damage and a lack of basic services after the earthquake.

In the provinces of Esmeraldas and Manabí, 8,000 buildings were destroyed and another 5,000 were damaged. In the months following the initial earthquake, the communities affected endured more than 1,700 aftershocks. The largest two, of 6.7- and 6.8-magnitude respectively, occurred within nine hours of each other on May 18.

Earthquake in Ecuador

A look at the aftermath of the 7.8-magnitude earthquake that shook Ecuador on April 16, 2016

During natural disasters, Heifer works alongside relief organizations to provide support and help our farmers recover. Once immediate needs for survival are met, Heifer helps affected families rebuild. In May, Heifer Ecuador began rebuilding cacao collection centers in Manabí.

In the long term, Heifer Ecuador is committed to rebuilding homes and reconstructing the economies and environments damaged by the earthquake and its aftershocks. Counseling will also be provided in the zone for the next two years in partnership with local universities.

So far, Heifer Ecuador has supplied 3,489 families in Esmeraldas and Manabí with:

• 351 rations of non-perishable food
• 220 rations of fresh food
• 4,824 liters of water
• 170 hygiene kits
• 24 community shelters
• 50 dry latrines
• 2,052 medical treatments

Some of the aid came from Heifer alpaca project participants in the Andes who were unaffected by the earthquake but concerned about those who were. Although some of the Andean families still struggle on a low income, they were inspired to donate what relief items they could, including food staples, toothpaste and toilet paper.

Olmedo Cayambe, a project participant in the Andes, said, “All of the communities Heifer supports are under the same umbrella, and because of that, we have to lend a hand.”

Poverty and Natural Disasters

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