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GENEVA (UNHCR) – UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is readying preparations for a major aid airlift, expected in the next 48 hours, to help people displaced by the disastrous earthquake in Ecuador. This follows a request for UN help received from the Ecuador Government.
Operational planning has been underway today in Copenhagen – UNHCR’s global logistics hub – for a first plane bound for Quito carrying core relief items including some 900 tents, plastic sheets, 15,000 sleeping mats, kitchen sets and, in view of the Zika virus risk, 18,000 much-needed repellant-impregnated mosquito nets. From Quito these supplies will be moved onwards as quickly as feasible and in accordance with priorities being determined locally. The focus will be on the worst-affected areas in the country’s west including areas around Manabi, Santo Domingo, Esmeraldas and Guayaquil.
The aim is to rapidly provide essential shelter and other aid material over the next days for some 40,000 people – refugees, asylum seekers and locals alike – in earthquake-affected communities.
In Ecuador, efforts have been ongoing since Sunday to assess the extent of the damage and determine the needs of people who have been affected. UNHCR has already dispatched emergency stocks from its in-country stockpile by truck to Carchi, Esmeraldas, Manta and Pedernales. These include scores of tents, and plastic sheeting for hundreds of people.
“It’s a very distressing and urgent situation we are dealing with. As well as hundreds of lives having been lost we’re also seeing many people now rendered homeless, including refugees and asylum seekers,” said Renata Dubini, Director of UNHCR’s Americas Bureau.
Ecuador is the biggest refugee-hosting country in Latin America. Its people have generously welcomed over 200,000 Colombian refugees and others in need of international protection, many of whom had settled in the earthquake-affected areas. UNHCR is committed to helping Ecuador and its people with support for refugee and host community populations.