Thousands of Children at Risk Following Ecuador’s Worst Quake Since 1979
Fairfield, Conn. (April 18, 2016) — The 7.8-magnitude earthquake which struck off the coast of Ecuador on the evening of April 16th has had a devastating impact on thousands of children, with lives lost and homes and schools damaged or destroyed, says Save the Children.
The impact of the earthquake – Ecuador's biggest since 1979 – followed by a 5.6-magnitude aftershock, has killed at least 350 people, and injured an estimated 2,608, according to Ecuadorian Security Minister César Navas. A state of national emergency is now in full force in the province of Manabi, where over 200 people died, as well as in Santa Elena, Esmeraldas, Guayas, Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas, and Los Rios.
Save the Children is on the ground in Ecuador working to establish the impact on children, homes and schools. The safety and protection of children and their families trapped in the country's worst-affected areas is the agency's key priority, as well as delivering emergency tents, food, cooking supplies, electricity generators, and hygiene kits in coordination with the national government, and supporting affected schools to ensure that children can return to class as soon as possible.
"Hundreds of buildings, including schools and health centers, have either been badly damaged or totally destroyed, and there are huge fears of further aftershocks. Many survivors are still being pulled out of the rubble, with some families searching through the debris for friends and relatives with their bare hands," says Maria Villalobos, Country Director for Save the Children Ecuador and Peru.
"Obviously this is an extremely dangerous, chaotic environment for the most vulnerable, particularly young, unaccompanied children or those that are badly injured in remote areas, and we have already heard numerous reports of lost children who can't find their families in the aftermath of the earthquake.
"The authorities have deployed mobile hospitals and rapid response units have already moved to the worst-affected cities, Pedernales and Portoviejo, with medical volunteers on their way. Save the Children is working round the clock to help affected families find refuge in temporary shelters which are currently in the process of being set up."
The widespread destruction of infrastructure will require the full resources of the government and emergency services, with some 10,000 troops and 3,500 police already present in the affected areas.
An 18-person United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) team has also been deployed to Pedernales to support coordination and initial assessments, including Roberto Martínez, Humanitarian Coordinator for Save the Children Spain.
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