ECUADOR: Salesian Missionaries Provide Relief and Assistance to Those in Crisis after Earthquake
(MissionNewswire) Salesian missionaries are assisting more than 7,000 families affected by the 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck Ecuador on April 16. According to news reports, the earthquake has killed more than 400 people and injured 2,500. Thousands have been left homeless. Recovery operations are underway to find those who are still missing and thought to be in the rubble. The hardest hit areas are in Manabi Province including the cities of Manta, Portoviejo and Pedernales.
National Public Radio (NPR) is reporting that there is a shortage of shelter in many earthquake-affected regions in the country, leaving people sleeping outdoors. There are fears that the houses still standing might have been damaged and will later collapse. Ecuador’s government has declared a state of emergency and is deploying army troops, firefighters and heavy equipment to search for survivors. Many highways, air traffic control and other buildings along the coast have collapsed.
In Manta, Salesian missionaries operate a school, a parish, an oratory and a center for street children. After the earthquake struck, missionaries there responded immediately helping to dig through rubble to look for trapped survivors and providing assistance to those affected. Salesian programs across the country have been working to collect emergency aid and coordinate volunteer efforts.
“We are helping more than 7,000 families and need funds to buy food and medicine,” says a Salesian missionary working with families in need in Manta. “The people are in great despair and their pain continues at the loss of their loved ones. In the future, we will have to repair the damage, but for now we have to attend to the people first.”
While responding to those in need, Salesian missionaries are also working to address the damage sustained to several of their buildings during the earthquake. Father Jorge Molina, provincial in Ecuador, has formed a support team to address this crisis. The damage to the school, the parish and a retreat house, as well as many of the buildings in the surrounding community, is quite extensive.
“There are 1,800 students attending the Salesian College of San Jose and many have been left homeless,” says Marcelo Mejia, delegate for social communication of the province of Ecuador. “Many of our students live in the area near the school where the damage is irreparable. There have been many stories we have heard of great sorrow our students are going through for the loss of loved ones.”
For now, the church, retreat house and school are closed. However, community members continue to seek assistance and shelter from the missionaries who are responding with aid as best they can. In the coming weeks and months, missionaries will work to assess damage and put a plan into place for responding to aid requests and rebuilding needs.
“Salesian missionaries have been working in Ecuador for more than 125 years, and because they live in the communities they serve, they are perfectly positioned to respond in times of crisis,” says Father Mark Hyde, executive director of Salesian Missions, the U.S development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “Salesian missionaries provide education and social development services across the country and were among the first responders after the recent earthquake providing emergency aid and assessing relief needs. They will remain to help local families restore their livelihoods and rebuild their homes and communities long after other relief services have left.”
Ecuador is one of the most inequitable societies in the world, according to UNICEF. The richest 20 percent of the population receives almost 50 percent of the national income, while the poorest 20 percent receives only five percent. Almost 26 percent of all children under five have stunted growth. In rural areas, the figure is 31 percent, and in indigenous communities, it is even higher at 47 percent, according to the World Food Program. For poor, rural and indigenous youth, education provides the best opportunity for finding employment, reducing inequities and breaking the cycle of poverty.
Headquartered in New Rochelle, New York, Salesian Missions has launched a Disaster in Ecuador fund to help the victims of the earthquake. To raise money for the fund, the Catholic nonprofit aid organization has launched an emergency fundraising campaign and is issuing an urgent appeal for donations. Go to http://www.salesianmissions.org/ecuador.