Ecuador

What We Do in Ecuador

The innovation initiative AIM Youth is currently a major focus in Ecuador as we seek to develop and test financial services and education for youth. Freedom from Hunger is also working to expand the proven Credit with Education program to new partners, as well as strengthen the quality and range of services provided by our long-standing partners in the country. It is our plan to reach more than 245,000 families through partnerships with 24 institutions by 2014 through the implementation of these, and other, programs. Starting in 2011 we launched a microfinance and health initiative with three partners and plan to expand the program to additional organizations by 2014.

About Ecuador

  • Area: 283,561square km (slightly smaller than Nevada)
  • Natural hazards: Ecuador is subject to frequent earthquakes; landslides; volcanic activity; floods; and periodic droughts
  • Agricultural products: bananas, coffee, cocoa, rice, potatoes, manioc (tapioca), plantains, sugarcane; cattle, sheep, pigs, beef, pork, dairy products; balsa wood; fish, shrimp
  • Population: 15,007,343
  • Ethnic groups: mestizo (mixed Amerindian and white) 65%, Amerindian 25%, Spanish and others 7%, black 3%
  • Languages: Spanish (official), Amerindian languages (especially Quechua)
  • Population below poverty line: 33.1%
  • Infant mortality rate: 19.65 deaths/1,000 live births
  • Unemployment rate: 5%

Ecuador is located in Western South America, bordering the Pacific Ocean at the Equator, between Colombia and Peru. After gaining their independence in 1822, Ecuador has had a succession of presidents, dictators and military rulers; many governments have lasted less than two years. Elected leaders face major economic and social problems.

Traditionally a farming country, Ecuador's economy was transformed after the 1960s by the growth of industry and the discovery of oil. There was rapid growth and progress in health, education and housing. But by the end of the 20th century, a combination of factors, including falling oil prices and damage caused by the weather phenomenon El Niño, had driven the economy into recession.

Inflation, which had become the highest in the region, led the government to replace the national currency with the U.S. dollar in an effort to curtail it. Many rural families live in small homes made of reeds and mud, or sun-dried bricks, with straw roofs and earth floors.

Staple foods are maize and potatoes in the sierra, with wheat and rice preferred along the coast. Many households cannot afford to eat fruit and other vegetables, so they are vulnerable to malnutrition and illness. Working mothers often have to leave young children unattended, or daughters miss school to take over the housework and childcare. Poor nutrition, unsafe water and poverty lead to high rates of preventable diseases such as diarrhea and respiratory problems, resulting in many deaths among young children. The poorest families often have to live on land vulnerable to floods or mudslides.

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