By Christie R. House
June 29, 2021 | ATLANTA
People living in rural communities outside Rocafuerte in the Manabí province of Ecuador have not had a working water system since an earthquake destroyed theirs five years ago. They buy treated drinking water from Rocafuerte city as well as water tanks for cooking, bathing and washing clothes. Generally, Indigenous families cannot afford $50 dollars a month for water and too often turn to unsafe sources, like local waterways.
But unsafe water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) can have deadly consequences, especially for children. UNICEF estimates that over 700 children under age five die every day of preventable diarrheal diseases because their communities lack appropriate WASH facilities and practices.
The 2016 quake killed more than 700 people and left 700,000 in need of assistance. Nearly 17,000 quakes of all sizes were recorded in Ecuador that year. Municipalities in the northern coastal areas have concentrated on rebuilding water, transportation and educational infrastructure in urban areas while rural communities still wait for basic water access and sanitation.
The Fundación Ingenieros En Acción (FIEA) or Engineers in Action, with offices in Ecuador and Bolivia, has been working in Latin America since 2007, dedicated to improving the health and wellbeing of vulnerable communities. FIEA works in partnership with local communities to increase access to water and infrastructure, building their capacity and resilience. Two of its local partners in this work are the Evangelical Methodist Church in Bolivia and the Evangelical United Methodist Church of Ecuador. Global Ministries, through Global Health and the United Methodist Committee on Relief, is a natural international partner.
In the past two years, FIEA and Global Ministries have worked together on three WASH projects for rural communities that would otherwise have inadequate, or in some cases, no access to clean water or sanitation facilities.