Food Insecurity and Malnutrition on Ecuador's Northern Border
Published on 18 November 2010

People transport food sacks used on the relief activities by the WFP on the north border of Ecuador. Copyright:WFP/Diego Rosero

Colombia's four-decade long conflict has also affected neighboring countries. Nearly 135,000 Colombians in need of international protection live in Ecuador; most of them in the Northern provinces. Lack of infrastructure and basic services is worsening the social and nutritional situation in the region.

The conflict in Colombia has displaced a large number of affected persons who are forced to flee their country of origin to Ecuador, which has the largest number of refugees and asylum seekers in Latin America.
The Government of Ecuador reported in 2009 that the country hosts 135,000 Colombian persons in need of international protection. Local Ecuadorian residents and Colombian refugees in the Northern provinces of Ecuador - where the socio-economic indicators are below the national average- suffer from prevailing violence and crime, lack of social services, education, and weak governance. Likewise, women and girls represent half of the population in need of international protection and in addition to homicides, kidnappings, and threats, women are also victims of sexual violence and forced prostitution.

The results of an Emergency Food Security Assessment (EFSA), undertaken by WFP in Ecuador in coordination with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ecuador, and other governmental entities, evidenced the severity of the food security status in the Northern border. The food security problem affects both refugee and host populations.

Currently, WFP provides food assistance through PRRO 10443.0. The project has two components; relief and recovery. The relief activities include food aid for a minimum of three months to a target of 12,000 individuals per month. Within the frame of the recovery strategy, assistance is provided for a target population of 6,000 persons per month through Food for Work and Food for Training schemes.

wfp staff loading a canoe with bags of food in ecuadorCarmen Guevara, Programme Assistant assigned to the Northern Provinces Imbabura, Carchi and Esmeraldas, is working since 2007 in the field. Carmen states that it “is hard to believe that this level of poverty exists in Ecuador.” Carmen also describes the situation in this region as “extreme” based on the vulnerability of children, elderly and women.  Carmen sees her job as full of rewards, especially because of the implementation of the Food for Training activities.

WFP in Ecuador strongly supports women’s involvement in training activities to improve their situation. For Carmen it is important that women acquire specific skills and tools to generate income. In words of Carmen “the most amazing situation in which I have been involved in my job was in El Carmel parish in Carchi. 

Both, Colombian and Ecuadorian women, most of them head of households and with no formal education, participate in FFT activities to gain practical skills. At the end of the training they receive the food rations, which are the incentive of the programme, but the most important result is that they are gaining practical skills, to generate income, like sewing clothes.” This kind of activity contributes to women’s empowerment and increase the income of the family.  Carmen says “it is incredible the courage of all the participants who always try to go on and work together for peace and prosperity.”