© WFP/Anne-Karine Brodeur
In recent years Ecuador has exhibited GDP growth, which has resulted in declining poverty levels and enabled increased investments in social policies, infrastructure, health and education. However, the current economic slowdown, driven by declining oil prices and other factors, may undermine this positive trend.
Ecuador is also highly prone to natural disasters, resulting in loss of life, livelihoods and infrastructure. In April 2016, a devastating earthquake struck the northern coast, and reconstruction costs were estimated at nearly 3 percent of the GDP.
Vulnerability to natural disasters, soil erosion, environmental degradation and climate change threaten the sustainability of food systems. For these reasons, strengthening preparedness and response mechanisms, as well as enhancing the resilience of communities and individuals to adverse events is an area of growing interest for the World Food Programmee (WFP) and the Government.
Ecuador maintains pockets of poverty and food insecurity. By the end of 2016, 23 percent of the population was living below the poverty line, with peaks of 38 percent in rural areas. Of those seeking refuge in Ecuador, 64 percent do not have adequate access to food. Their diet, like that of vulnerable Ecuadorians, lacks diversity, with the consumption of fruit and vegetables well below recommended levels. Limited access to nutritious food and a lack of nutritional awareness are at the roots of overlapping nutrition problems, with chronic malnutrition affecting 23.9 percent of children under 5, and 64 percent of adults being overweight or obese.
To "leave no one behind" as mandated by the 2030 Development Agenda and achieve Sustainable Development Goal 2 on ending hunger, it is essential to assist the most vulnerable populations in meeting their basic food and nutrition needs all year long. WFP’s food assistance consists in the provision of vouchers to purchase fresh, nutritious and healthy foods, and is conditional on the attendance of nutrition trainings. To combat malnutrition in children, WFP also focuses on the first 1,000 days from conception to the child’s second birthday, ensuring that pregnant and nursing women have access to, and information on, the nutrients required for the full development of their babies.
By helping people meet their food needs through voucher programmes, WFP enables smallholder farmers - 64 percent of the agricultural population - to increase their incomes by improving productivity, diversifying food production and accessing formal markets.
Since WFP first started in the country in 1964, its role has changed considerably, from the delivery of programmes (such as school meals), to an increasingly advisory role, providing the Government of Ecuador with technical and policy support in its fields of expertise. WFP’s work is aligned with national priorities, and aims to build synergies with the Government’s social protection safety nets. An example of this was seen in the response to the 2016 earthquake, when WFP integrated its cash-based assistance into the national safety nets system. This resulted in a considerable reduction in the time spent re-registering beneficiaries and monitoring operations, and strengthened WFP's partnership with the Government.
What the World Food Programme is doing in Ecuador
Food assistanceWFP provides cash-based assistance to refugees, displaced persons, migrants, returnees and other vulnerable Ecuadorians to purchase fresh and nutritious products in local markets associated with WFP. Targeted populations receive nutrition education and trainings to improve their livelihoods.
NutritionWFP provides locally-produced nutritious foods and increases the nutritional component in hunger programs through constant induction, training and guidance to partners - including implementing partners - as part of a strategy to prevent malnutrition, enhance food security and raise awareness of the impacts of climate change with a gender perspective.
Support for smallholder farmersWFP works to connect smallholder farmers to national and local markets and procurement systems linked to social protection schemes, so that they can provide fresh, nutritious food for WFP´s programmes such as the school meals initiative. Farmers’ organizations receive technical assistance and capacity building. As women farmers, especially indigenous ones, face particular challenges, WFP prioritizes organizations with a majority of women members, and with women in leadership positions.
Sustainable food systemsWFP is working with the Government to develop and strengthen systems for early warning, emergency preparedness and response. WFP also works with the Government to enhance the capacities of national and local institutions, vulnerable communities and individuals, to respond and adapt to the adverse effects of climate change. Adaptation activities are accompanied by nutritional and technical trainings.
Capacity strengtheningWFP provides advice and support to national and local institutions, including to social protection systems, in order to reduce food insecurity and malnutrition by 2021. This includes promoting and disseminating studies, research and assessments to improve the implementation of programmes linked to food security and nutrition, and to encourage the sharing of experiences and best practices through South-South cooperation.