Ecuador, located in South America, has a population of 13 million inhabitants. Although an oil exporter, it is still one of the poorest countries in the region. This is mainly because of inequity in the country's distribution of resources.
Twenty six percent of all children under five years of age nationwide have stunted growth; in rural areas, the figure is 31 percent, and in indigenous communities it reaches 47 percent. The national illiteracy rate is only nine percent, but for rural and indigenous women it is 36 percent. According to unsatisfied basic needs indicators, 61 percent of the population lives in poverty.
Ecuador is going through a transition from a food-aid recipient country to one with an increasing national responsibility to address the social issues of hunger and malnutrition.
Ecuador needs time to become self-sufficient in addressing these problems for the following reasons: i) Setback of results obtained in fighting under-nutrition during the recent years due to the ongoing financial crisis, ii) relatively new government structures dealing with social protection networks, and iii) Implementation of the National Development Plan 2007-2011 and the new Constitution of the country (2008) both clearly addressing the fight against malnutrition as a national priority.
WFP Ecuador has been working very closely with the government to cooperate with its feeding and nutritional programs, as well as assistance for emergency operations focusing on the accomplishments of the first millennium development goal.
The objectives of WFP in Ecuador are to:
· assist the Government of Ecuador to strengthen its political/institutional and operational capacities to reach the MDG;
· cooperate with the government structures focusing on reducing the under nutrition of its most vulnerable population;
· work together with government in implementing an efficient risk management and response capacity to natural disasters at country and regional level; the Logistics Centre for Humanitarian Assistance in Tumbaco (near the capital Quito) is operational since mid 2008 and provides efficient services to Ecuador and the Andean region in terms of capacity building, know-how transfer, strategic food reserves for emergency response.
· provide food assistance to refugees and asylum seekers in Ecuador due to the prolonged armed conflict in Colombia; since 2001, WFP Ecuador has been implementing various operations to provide food assistance to the refugee population affected by this conflict ensuring at least one meal a day.
· implement a major integrated P4P intervention in the country; and
· engage, together with the government, in climate change adaptation activities using the WFP tool kit including food-for-work and/or cash/vouchers-for-work for projects in the Amazonian and the Andean Region.
WFP Ecuador stresses its continuing support regarding strengthening the government’s capacity on the political and operational levels in the fight against under-nutrition
On the operational level, since early 2009, WFP is undertaking a six-months process of handing over the operational functions with respect to the national food-based social programs to the government, including procurement of food and non-food items, quality control and related logistics processes.
WFP is implementing together with the Ministry of Health a food assistance operation for people living with HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis in order to improve their adherence to the anti-retroviral treatment (ART) they receive at no cost for them from Government.