“The river waters rose up to here,” says Melanie. This house has been flooded three times this year: twice in April and once in May. (Copyright: WFP/Deborah Hines)
April and May brought the heaviest rains and flooding seen in Ecuador over the last 30 years. WFP provided critical food assistance to the affected people, including those living in a community along the Onzole River. However, Melanie and her family still live fear as the rainy season is far from over in the Esmeraldas province and their home have been flooded three times this year.
ZANCUDO. --The Onzole River is now flowing within its banks, but the cracks in the walls of Melanie’s house remain. So does her fear that the river will again surge the more than a quarter of a kilometer up the hill and submerge the first floor of her cement house. For Melanie the efforts to move her belongings out of danger were of no importance. Each time the water entered her main room – twice in March and once in April- reaching as high as five feet, she had three concerns. Making sure her 97-year-old mother reached safety, finding someone to help her carry her sister with special needs, and ensuring that her four-year-old granddaughter did not go downstairs, as she does not swim.
Melanie is used to the responsibility of caring for the other four females in her household; a family with an age gap of 94 years. She runs a small shop out of her house to support her family, but the heavy rains have affected her business this year. She thinks people in the community are afraid to buy her goods; they are saving their money as insurance in case the rains still cause more damage. Before March and the start of some of the worst flooding in 30 years in Ecuador, Melanie would earn US$50 in a good day. Now she barely makes US$20 yet her costs are around US$200 per week. She quietly reflects that “now I don’t make much”.
In April Melanie and her family received food assistance from WFP in cooperation with the Borbon municipality. Of the products delivered in the food basket, her family especially appreciated the sugar because she generally is not able to afford it, and the beans, since Melanie knows a number of different ways to prepare them and her mother likes the way she cooks beans. Melanie did not know where the food came from, but she was extremely grateful for the help. The food package lasted almost six weeks, helping her to make up for the lost income and animals since the onset of the heavy rains. Her hens and pig did not survive the second flooding.
Melanie also had a couple of suggestions for WFP. “Please give matches for cooking and milk for my granddaughter”. She mentioned how difficult it was for her to cook during the four to five days after the river occupied her house (each time), and wondered if fast foods could be delivered. Melanie then paused and shut her eyes. She seemed to be reliving the invasion and simply said that she had been afraid that the water would not leave. “And now I am afraid of what is still to come in the last two weeks of May. You know, May brings the strongest rains and we no longer have the trees to protect us.”
As I left Melanie, her mother, sister, daughter, and granddaughter, the rains started again; falling hard as our boat left the eroded bank. I too was afraid what the next weeks of rain would bring for Melanie and her family.
She is WFP Representative in Ecuador since 2010. Deborah, a Canada citizen, has worked with WFP since 1995 in the areas of development, sustainable livelihood strategies, internal displacement, human rights and climate change adaptation. She was seconded to the World Bank before taking up the post in Ecuador. She previously worked at CIDA, FAO and the World Bank. She speaks English, French and Spanish.