A Glimpse of Poverty in Ecuador's Coastal Region
Growing up healthy and happy is filled with challenges for children in need in Ecuador’s coastal region.
- Torrential rains can destroy highways, bring down bridges and houses, contaminate water sources, and intensify diseases such as dengue fever and malaria.
- Often in the aftermath of these disasters, families endure weeks in isolation, without shelter, food or water.
Other serious issues in this region are domestic violence, sexual abuse and drug abuse.
- In Guayaquil, the region’s largest city, 30 percent of boys and 40 percent of girls have suffered at least one incidence of sexual abuse.
- Abuse of women and children is fostered by the prevalent, distorted view of gender roles and male supremacy.
- Drug use in the coastal region is increasing.
- It is not uncommon to find 12-year-old children consuming or distributing drugs in their schools.
In the Coastal Region of Ecuador
Geography & Climate
The west coast of Ecuador borders the North Pacific Ocean. The climate is tropical, but with two very distinct seasons.
- The summer season, which runs from May to December, is sunny and dry.
- The winter season, in contrast, brings extremely heavy rainfall.
- Severe flooding is a constant threat — especially for those who rely on agriculture for their income.
- Thousands of families lose their homes, belongings, crops, animals and jobs to the rainy season every year.
- With the flooding comes disease, including dengue fever, malaria, and typhoid.
The coastal region accounts for just over half of Ecuador’s total population.
- Extreme poverty is prevalent throughout the area.
- Most coastal inhabitants are unemployed or underemployed.
- Many children are forced to earn income to help support the family, although the government is working hard on this issue and the number of children who work is decreasing.
Children at Home
Most homes are made of cane with zinc sheet roofs, and the primitive construction can’t withstand the effects of severe storms and flooding in the winter.
More than one-third of the families in the region lived in cramped conditions. In some homes, as many as 10 family members share a 20- to 25-square-foot house.
Children in coastal regions of Ecuador frequently suffer from coughs, flu, parasites and intestinal illnesses that result from drinking dirty water.
Issues and Concerns
Because of the humidity and proximity to water, coastal residents regularly battle common tropical diseases.
- Each winter, more than half the population is prone to outbreaks of malaria, dengue fever and skin infections, all caused by the mosquitoes that thrive in stagnant pools of water that remain after winter flooding.
- Families also struggle with unemployment
- Many residents who have jobs must find ways to care for their families on an average income of about $7 a day.
- Those who can find work labor in the fields harvesting rice and corn; others work on fishing boats or cattle ranches.
- Informal markets are crowded with vendors selling fruits, vegetables and handmade crafts.
- Many families are uneducated about nutrition.
- About one-fifth of the residents of the region’s rural areas are malnourished.
Local Needs and Challenges
A third of the region’s children age 4 and younger are left with relatives, friends or neighbors each day while their parents work. This lack of parental oversight has resulted in a startling increase in:
- child abuse
- teen pregnancy
- learning disorders
Kids who do not receive nurturing and guidance at home are looking for it elsewhere – and finding very poor substitutes. Compassion is working to fill that void in these young lives.
Schools and Education
In Ecuador, nearly all children between ages 6 and 18 have access to a free public education.
- While about three-fourths of all students finish elementary school, only a little less than a third will complete high school.
- Classrooms are crowded, with a ratio of 50 students to one teacher in rural, one-teacher schools.
At the Compassion Child Development Center
Child development centers provide registered children with a place to learn, grow and study.
Children whose families have never been able to offer then clean water, health care or an education now have access to these necessities.
Compassion-assisted children attend health classes, tutoring sessions and Bible studies at the center. They also spend time writing to and praying for their sponsors.
What Compassion Sponsorship Provides
Child development centers in the coastal region of Ecuador provide registered children with a place to learn and grow. While their parents spend their days fishing and selling in the markets, Compassion-assisted children attend or receive:
- regular nutritious meals and snacks
- health checkups and medical care as needed
- the support needed to attend school
- Bible study
- good hygiene instruction to prevent spread of disease
In partnership with the Peace and Hope Foundation, centers are also working to address the legal, spiritual and psychological issues related to family violence and sexual abuse. Center staff also participate in awareness workshops that help keep them alert and ready to respond to situations of abuse that arise.