A Glimpse of Poverty in Ecuador's Amazon Region
Ecuador’s Amazon region has long been neglected by the government. Basic services are scarce and the infrastructure inadequate.
Only one university exists, and technical and vocational training opportunities are limited. As a result, young people have few opportunities to learn skills for becoming self-sufficient.
In the thick of Ecuador’s Amazonian jungle, there is no electricity, running water or modern appliances. Cooking meager meals over wood fires is the norm. Malnutrition is a serious issue among the children here, with diets consisting primarily of corn and cassava. When meat or vegetables are available, they are given to men in the family first. Women and children eat the leftovers.
In the Amazon Region of Ecuador
Geography & Climate
Ecuador’s Amazon region lies in the eastern part of the country. The climate is tropical – warm and humid, with a lot of rain. The average temperature is the mid-70s. The region has the typical lush vegetation associated with the rainforest ecosystem.
The region has many rivers and three active volcanoes. An estimated 10 percent of all plant species on Earth are found in the Ecuadorian Amazon.
Amazon inhabitants account for only 5 percent of the country’s total population.
- Most people in the region, especially the indigenous, make their living from agriculture.
- Others hunt, fish and make handicrafts to sell to tourists.
- Unfortunately, many have found that this way of life can no longer sustain their families.
- Unemployment and poverty are becoming distressingly common, as are related problems such as alcoholism and parental neglect.
Children at Home
Families in this region usually live in houses with cement walls, wooden floors and metal roofs, although some homes are made of bamboo with thatch roofs.
A typical house is 30 feet by 30 feet, and often holds up to five family members. More than three-fourths of the houses in this region need repairs or updating.
Issues and Concerns
Oil production represents more than half of Ecuador’s exports, and much of that production occurs in the Amazon region.
- As oil production facilities have grown, indigenous people have been forced to evacuate their homes and have seen their habitat and health destroyed.
- The oil production pollutes the water, soil and air, causing skin and respiratory tract infections, anemia, amnesia, congenital malformations and cancer.
- Improper use of pesticides has caused skin and stomach infections and even is linked to a significant number of suicides related to a high rate of depression.
- Nearly three-fourths of the region’s population lives in poverty, earning less than the minimum wage of $7 a day.
- Social problems include violence, prostitution and alcoholism.
Local Needs and Challenges
Alcohol abuse is rising at an alarming rate among people in the Amazon region. Many children in Compassion’s child development centers live with alcoholic parents.
Some children have suffered physical abuse at their parents’ hands; all have suffered neglect.
Their parents’ addiction means they do not receive the food, clothing and education they need at home.
The lack of amenities such as running water and sewage systems contributes to serious health problems. Many children here suffer from chronic illnesses.
Schools and Education
Although about three-fourths of the region’s children finish elementary school, only one-fourth graduate from high school.
- Only one in 10 goes on to further education.
- The indigenous people attend rural one-teacher schools, which represent nearly three-fourths of the elementary schools in the jungle region.
- The average student-to-teacher ratio is 1 to 20 or 1 to 30, with one teacher for 50 students at some remote schools.
At the Compassion Child Development Center
In Ecuador’s Amazon region, Compassion partners with local churches to bring help and hope for a brighter future to children in need.
Although resistant to new ideas, children and caregivers alike are presented the gospel in a loving way by center and partner church staff, who emphasize the ability of faith in Christ to transform life for the better, for all eternity.
What Compassion Sponsorship Provides
At their church-based Compassion centers, children are encouraged to have an open mind and proactive approach to life.
- Children receive regular nutritious meals and snacks
- They get health checkups and medical care as needed
- They receive the support needed to attend school
- They are provided courses to learn marketable vocational skills, as well as training in how to start their own small business enterprises.
- Children participate in learning and recreational activities in a safe, accepting environment away from negative influences.