Reducing risk and rebuilding lives after the Ecuador earthquake

Source(s): United Nations Development Program - Ecuador

“Things flew through the air all over the place. We didn’t imagine we would find so much destruction outside. Not only me, but many people would like to forget it.”

On 16 April 2016, a 7.8 scale earthquake devastated the coastal area of Ecuador. 671 people lost their lives and hundreds of thousands suffered serious losses. One year later, the country is rising steadily with courage and a resilient spirit.

Removing The Rubble

Just two weeks after the earthquake, UNDP launched the Emergency Community Work and Debris Management initiative. With the aim of starting the recovery process as soon as possible - specifically targeting rural areas affected by the earthquake - the first phase of this work began in the rural coastal city of Las Gilces, around 400km west of the capital Quito, in the hard hit province of Manabí.

In total 18,780 m³ of debris and rubble was removed in Las Gilces and Riochico.

These activities, with around 30 women and men working on debris management and repair of critical community infrastructure, were among the initiatives which started the reconstruction of communities and began to revive local economies.

Demolition brigades in Riochico

Income generation and job creation in affected communities is usually the first priority for families. The creation of emergency community employment allows affected families to go from being beneficiaries to protagonists in the process of reconstructing their communities. This temporary employment programme provided rapid income support to the communities.

UNDP conducted demolition and rubble management (within the temporary employment programme) at the Riochico Parish Council in the Portoviejo canton with the support of the Government of Japan.

“Debris management is the beginning of the recovery process, in which support for livelihoods and the rebuilding of homes play a vital role. With this goal in mind, UNDP links humanitarian response to early recovery onto human development,” explains Nuno Queiros, UNDP Deputy Resident Representative in Ecuador.

Building resilience

As part of the immediate response, UNDP supported the authorities in damage assessment, in order to measure the earthquake impact and to plan their recovery.

The damage assessment support included training 594 specialized volunteers to assist in the rapid evaluation of affected structures.

UNDP’s short-term strategy also included providing rapid post-crisis support to municipal governments for the assessment of recovery needs, and facilitating cohesive action for a quick economic recovery.

Together with local and national authorities, UNDP worked on productive infrastructure repair and improvements to business models to reactivate trade, agriculture, and fishing.

In the longer term, efforts have included strengthening capacities for pre-disaster recovery planning (for future risks), as well as integrating risk reduction considerations into recovery initiatives.

To date, 29 communities now have risk management plans, and 269 national and local institutions now have coordination mechanisms and emergency response systems in place.

A changing climate and rapidly growing exposure to disaster risk presents the world with an unprecedented challenge. For developing countries, who are currently less able to cope with the impact and consequently more likely to be affected, the challenge is particularly severe. By working to integrate timely disaster recovery and disaster risk reduction at the local and national level, UNDP supports countries in building resilience and ensuring that development remains risk-informed and sustainable.

Explore further

Hazards Earthquake
Themes Recovery
Country and region Ecuador
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