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Earthquake in Ecuador: The population is fearful and nervous

27 Apr 2016

More than a week since a 7.8 magnitude struck Ecuador, the repercussions from the earthquake continue to affect the population. Many families are sleeping outside because they’re afraid of aftershocks. Makeshift shelters dot the landscape in the most affected areas, with people unsure how long they’ll have to live in these conditions.

Official figures put the death toll at 650 people, with 48 people missing and more than 29,000 in shelters. Médecins Sans Frontières teams in Ecuador are concentrating their efforts in areas where help has not yet arrived. “Psycho-social support is missing almost entirely in affected areas,” said Gloria Perez, project coordinator for the team in Muisne. “Aftershocks have continued these last few days and this increases people’s [psychological] symptoms: they’re scared, worried and nervous.” Throughout Muisne and Pedernales, Médecins Sans Frontières has conducted 32 individual counseling sessions, 22 psycho-social activities with more than 360 people, six counseling groups with more than 40 people and 80 medical consultations.

Affected Twice

“The day of the earthquake, we were having a family party and we were cooking when we felt the first earthquake. In that moment, we were scared, but then came another, much stronger earthquake and the whole house fell,” said Jeanina, 25, who is staying in a shelter in Chamanga. There are 300 people just at this shelter. “It was very dark and we all just searched for our children, our brothers and sisters, our parents. We went up the hill, to a higher area, because we were afraid of a tsunami on lower ground. When we arrived, we managed to find two mattresses, but most people didn’t bring anything. Their houses fell and everything was crushed underneath; it was horrible.”

"It was very dark and we all just searched for our children, our brothers and sisters, our parents"

Challenges continue for people who lost everything after the earthquake; especially people who are living in makeshift shelters. A major rain storm on April 23 left many families living in mud, and they had to find ways to protect their very few belongings. Some used wooden boards to protect their mattresses and food from the mud and others had to move to other makeshift shelters. “When the second aftershock occurred on the night of April 16, we thought we were going to die, but the most important thing is that we’re alive. Material things we can obtain if we work.”