A powerful earthquake measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale struck Ecuador on the evening of 16 April 2016, claiming the lives of more than 600 people. The disaster also caused significant damage and left more than 20,000 people homeless. Swiss Humanitarian Aid responded very quickly by sending experts who were based in the region. The immediate concern was to secure a supply of drinking water for the local population.
Reacting to the first reports, the day after the earthquake Swiss Humanitarian Aid deployed specialists based in Colombia and Bolivia to evaluate the needs in three locations (Chamanga, Pedernales and Muisne) in the north-west of the country, near the earthquake’s epicentre.
The emergency mission established that the priority was to supply drinking water to those affected by the earthquake. Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit (SHA) experts were dispatched to Ecuador immediately to strengthen capacities.
They distributed more than 5,000 water canisters, 5,000 hygiene kits and 100,000 chlorine water purification tablets in the three above-mentioned villages. In Pedernales, two chlorine dosing units were installed to re-establish a drinking water supply for the town’s 27,000 inhabitants. Switzerland has also financed Ecuadorian and Colombian Red Cross mobile units to distribute drinking water in various villages located near Chamanga.
An SHA logistics expert has also been seconded to the United Nations coordination unit handling the receipt and distribution of aid materials from around the world.
Following the emergency phase, the SDC seconded an SHA specialist to the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to coordinate the reconstruction work until August 2016.
As it has done on previous missions of this kind to Nepal and Haiti, the SDC will advise the Ecuadorian government on rebuilding the damaged sites in conformity with anti-earthquake standards.
The SDC has disbursed a total of CHF 1.5 million to assist the victims of the earthquake.