On the Ground in Ecuador, Delivering Critical Aid

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More than a week after the devastating earthquake in Ecuador, JDC and its partners are providing aid to hundreds of people, including food, water, medical equipment and supplies, water filters and purification tablets, solar panel lamps, and post-trauma kits for children.

JDC's disaster relief expert and field medic Mike Attinson and JDC Latin America community development expert Viviana Bendersky are on the ground in Ecuador, coordinating JDC's response. They wrote this reflection on conditions and relief work in the field.

Today was an opportunity to see some of the areas affected by the earthquake firsthand. We visited three towns -- San Isidro, Canoa, and Jama, all in hard-hit Manibi province. 

In San Isidro, we joined a massive aid distribution operation providing water and 800 food packages to scores of hungry townspeople. This critically important relief effort was organized and deployed by Johnny Czarninski, the president of Guayaquil's Jewish community and a noted business leader.  

In Jama and Canoa, the destruction was significant. I saw 90-year-old houses collapsed, and when I spoke to residents, the despair was clear. On one side-street, I met a mother who told us, with tears in her eyes, how her four children were killed. There is no doubt that the efforts of JDC and our partners help ensure these Ecuadoreans can pick up the pieces of their lives and rebuild.

Even Jama’s Catholic church was ravaged by the earthquake. The parish priest told me he and his staff are busy distributing food to residents in outlying hill villages. It was quite surreal for me to see rows of empty church benches laid out in orderly fashion on the street. The confessional was tucked in the shade a few yards away, waiting for parishioners who can only ask their god why he has brought them such chaos.

Every school we saw suffered significant structural damage. It's doubtful that a number of them will see pupils in their rooms in the near future.

Shelter, livelihood, and education remain central issues and as we have learned in the past, require addressing shortly after the initial shock of the disaster has passed. 

We were moved and saddened to see people standing along the signs holding up signs. They read Ayuda — “Help.”

There are too few social workers and psychologists to treat those here who are in need.

We’re proud at these moments to be a part of JDC, bringing a small degree of hope to those facing great odds.


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