Ecuador Earthquake: Charities on the Ground Providing Disaster Relief

Charity Intelligence is not appealing to Canadians to donate to the Ecuador Earthquake. We feel there was relatively limited damage and Ecuador’s government can adequately cope with the devastation. We feel similarly about the earthquake that hit Japan just two days before. There are times when we feel compelled to urge Canadians to donate. Now is not one of them.

Charity Intelligence’s decision may be “hard hearted” but we believe it is realistic. Donors cannot reasonably be expected to respond to every natural disaster with an outpouring of generosity - $31 million for the Syrian refugee crisis, over $50 million for Typhoon Haiyan, well over $240 million for the Haitian earthquake, $48 million for the Alberta Floods, and $14 million for Lac Megantic. According to UNICEF, there are more than 250 disaster responses each year. We feel Canadian donors can be judicious.

Japan’s and Ecuador’s earthquakes are tragic; the Ecuador earthquake has killed at least 570 people, injured an estimated 4,000 people, has left maybe 5,000 people without shelter, and the cost of rebuilding could be as high as US$3 billion. Yet from looking at the scale of the disaster areas, listening to the responses, it appears both Japan and Ecuador are well-equipped to deal with these national tragedies.  The President of Ecuador has already announced a one year 2% increase in sales tax, a 0.9% levy on millionaires, and plans to sell certain state assets, among other measures to fund the recovery.

Giving is always a personal choice. For Canadians who choose to donate to Ecuadorian disaster relief appeals, we recommend:

  1. Pick a charity that was operating in Ecuador before the earthquake so it has established local connections to provide relief quickly. Starting up in a new country, sending staff, and opening offices takes too long in disaster relief. These charities had operations in Ecuador before the earthquake: World Vision Canada, UNICEF, the Red Cross, Plan Canada, Compassion.
  2. A good track record of responding quickly: In a disaster, speed matters. In measuring charity responses in past disaster relief efforts, World Vision and Doctors Without Borders have the fastest response times. (Doctors Without Borders is not responding to the Ecuador relief efforts).
  3. A charity that has the skills to do the work required. Disaster relief is very different from development work. Furthermore, each natural disaster is different and needs to be assessed. Earthquake recovery typically needs surgery, medics, bulldozers to clear ruble, engineers, and shelter. It is not clear at this time what Ecuador’s particular needs are that charities can best fill. Several charities are on the ground doing assessments.
  4. Charity programs that help all. In disaster relief, everybody needs help. Relief efforts need to provide for men and women, seniors and children.


According to news sources, charities responding to the Ecuador Earthquake are:

  • The World Food Program is sending food for 8,000 people in the severely affected area
  • UN-HCR is airlifting in shelter and mosquito nets
  • Oxfam is on the ground and assessing the situation and developing a response. Oxfam sent a shipment of safe drinking water materials on April 20, 2016
  • Save the Children reports focusing efforts on the children in the affected area to continue their education despite the damage. It plans to distribute 1,500 student kits with school materials when the school term begins on May 1. Save the Children’s operations are in the northern coastal province of Esmeraldas that is rural and 98% of the population lives below the poverty line
  • World Vision work is in Ecuador’s rural central province of Chimborazo but will be providing relief to Manabi province where the earthquake struck. World Vision will provide first aid, food, hygiene kits, tents, mattresses, child-friendly spaces and emotional support in health centres and shelters.
  • Red Cross Canada is doing a rapid assessment of the humanitarian needs following the earthquake. Local Ecuador Red Cross volunteers are providing first aid and supporting search and rescue efforts.
  • PLAN Canada, operating in Ecuador for over 50 years, works with children in communities. It is mobilizing emergency response efforts to reach 75,000 people, half of which are children.
  • Compassion Canada works in Ecuador with a focus on disease control, prenatal care, breastfeeding promotion, immunization and sanitation focused on reducing child mortality rates.
  • UNICEF Canada has worked in Ecuador since 1973, and is campaigning for $1 million to meet the immediate needs of the quake-affected children. UNICEF Ecuador has already distributed 20,000 water purification tablets.
  • Global Medic volunteer first-responders are on the ground. With operations based in Manta, Global Medic’s 23-man team is assisting with search and rescue for survivors, needs assessment for food, hygiene, shelter, and water. Global Medic is installing a water purification unit that meets the needs of 15,000 people a day.


The Canadian government has responded with $1 million in humanitarian aid and is assessing whether to deploy the Canadian military’s disaster assistance response team. 


Ecuador Country Facts



Human Development Index

Under 5 Mortality Rate(1)

Life Expectancy

Access to Safe Water

Average income (1)

School enrollment

Literacy Rate


Very High 6/187

6 / 1000

81 years






High 83/187

18 / 1000

76 years





(1) World Bank US$ GNI per capita using the Atlas method

Source: World Vision Canada


Heads Up: Donating to Disaster Appeals

Disaster appeals are one of the strongest motivations for donors. People care. People give generously in these extreme times of need, especially with moving photos of the affected area. Some major disasters like the 2014 Ebola crisis “lack spark” resulting in donations falling short of urgent needs. There is a hierarchy of urgent needs that does not always match fundraising appeal.



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