As many of you are probably aware by now, a 7.8 earthquake rocked Ecuador last Saturday evening, buckling overpasses, causing houses to collapse, and knocking out power in Guayaquil, Ecuador’s most populous city.
HERE & NOW
s many of you are probably aware by now, a 7.8 earthquake rocked Ecuador last Saturday evening, buckling overpasses, causing houses to collapse, and knocking out power in Guayaquil, Ecuador’s most populous city. As of now there are 650 fatalities and over 12,000 injured. These numbers will no doubt rise as search and rescue teams are able to gain further access into some of the hardest hit areas cut off by road closures and landslides.
Waves For Water, at this point, is known for being highly experienced in disaster response, earning that credibility by working all of the major disasters over the past seven years – Haiti, Philippines, Japan, Nepal, Indonesia, Mexico, to name a few… and though these things happen in different countries, with a whole range of nuances (political, cultural, religious, etc), one thing always remains – the basic needs of every living human being on the planet: water, food, and shelter.
That said, in response to this calamity, the organization has launched a full scale clean-water disaster relief initiative. Following the game plan from from similar previous emergency response programs, Waves for Water is taking a two pronged approach:
Addressing the immediate suffering of quake victims in the hardest hit areas and creating a lasting local infrastructure that will work on long-term development and preparedness programs for years to come.
So many of the places that these calamities hit are areas that have needed clean-water programs long before the disaster strikes. But sadly, don’t have the attention from the global community. So as devastating as these event are, the upside (if there is one) is that people who otherwise would never have been be seen, or served, now are receiving help. That’s what Waves for Water does best: reach the unreached. Sadly it too often comes at the cost of human life and unimaginable suffering, but it does come, and in the long run the place will strengthen as a result.
All of the disasters W4W has responded to over the past 7 years, in over 10 countries, are still active and have developed into very healthy, locally managed, sustainable initiatives. None of these would be where they are without the first response happening.
An efficient local network along with Waves for Water’s international team has been striking into the hardest hit areas areas to implement portable water filtration systems with primary focus on community centers and IDP camps. Placing the filter systems in higher concentrated populations such as these, they are able to maximize impact.
In the coming weeks, the focus will then shift to individual households . The goal is obviously to provide everyone with access to clean water. The road to recovery for Ecuador will be a marathon, not a sprint, so they are looking at both the immediate problem and the pre-existing condition of water-borne disease – and going the distance to carefully, and tactically, produce the highest impact and greatest benefit.
Ecuador sits comfortably in what we all know to be the ‘Ring of Fire’, a highly seismically active area. So beyond the support and infrastructure provided in this calamity, this is an opportunity to build a regional team that will be the project leaders in disaster preparedness and response for the future calamities sure to come.
Case in point, W4w’s local team in Nepal (that was developed after their quake) is now leading programs in India, Myanmar, and Thailand. This strategy and type of growth is one of the major keys to a successful international development program – people in a certain region who have gone through the program themselves, taking all of their knowledge and expertise, and paying it forward to neighboring countries in need. This is true empowerment, and we expect the efforts in Ecuador to follow this model, and produce same results.
Closing thought: These events have a way of polarizing things for everyone involved – bringing to the surface what’s really important and powerfully disappearing what isn’t. No matter how many of these we’ve been through, we’re still reminded that everything, for all of us, is basically fine until it isn’t. Life goes on quite normally for most of us and then boom, things can be forever changed in a matter of seconds. Our impermanence is humbling to say the least.
To quote one of my favorite lines from Jack London – “The function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.” If nothing else, let this letter be a reminder of that…