By now, you have heard the heartbreaking news. A 7.8-magnitude earthquake shook coastal Ecuador on April 16th -- ravaging the country’s already-fragile infrastructure. Across the nation, the powerful quake and hundreds of associated aftershocks flattened homes, collapsed roads and bridges, knocked out electricity and communications, and triggered mudslides that have stranded some of the most vulnerable victims from assistance. In response to the devastation, Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa has declared a national emergency.
More than 400 are confirmed dead. An additional 2,500 are injured, some gravely. Many remain missing -- likely trapped beneath the rubble of buildings destroyed by the disaster. Sadly, as rescue efforts continue, the death toll will likely rise.
Survivors -- traumatized by their experience -- are sleeping in the streets, praying the aftershocks will subside. Terrified to go indoors, and often with no family to return to, they huddle together against the elements and their own shock. Desperate with grief, they hope and pray that their missing loved ones will be found alive.
They have lost almost everything. And they desperately need help.
Almost immediately, our Salesian missionaries stationed in the city of Manta sprang into action -- offering whatever assistance they could. For close to 130 years, these missionaries have served among the poverty-stricken population -- establishing schools and vocational training programs, and offering new opportunities to thousands of marginalized youth and their families. More than 200 missionaries currently serve in Manta, Guayaquil, Esmereldas, Machala and 23 other communities. They are known, trusted and well positioned to respond to this crisis in ways that other organizations cannot.
Although the Salesian school, missionaries’ residence and retreat home in Manta have been destroyed, our immediate concern is to provide basic humanitarian aid to as many people as possible. Food, clean water, warm blankets and, especially, medicine and first aid supplies which are crucial for their survival are urgently needed.
“We are already helping more than 7,000 families,” reports Father Luis Mosquera, SDB, rector of the Manta community. “We urgently need to buy food and medicine; the people are in great despair and their pain is magnified by the loss of their loved ones.”
“In the future, we will have to repair the damage to our buildings -- but we must attend to the people right now,” he says.
Your caring support today means that we can adequately address the challenges before us.
Under the direction of Father Jorge Molina, SDB, provincial of Ecuador, Salesian communities throughout the country have assembled a crisis response team in order to more effectively assess needs and coordinate resources and efforts.
In a nation of 16 million desperately impoverished people -- with dozens of communities literally flattened by the disaster -- this earthquake has dealt a devastating blow to the hopes and futures of its residents. Official estimates place the cost of reconstruction in the billions of dollars.
Yet, as President Correa, a former Salesian volunteer himself, reminds us, “Structures can be rebuilt. But what can’t be rebuilt are human lives -- and that’s the most painful.”
Your caring kindness lends us the strength we will need to prevail in the face of such adversity -- and to restore a sense of optimism and possibility as we seek to help families recover from their heartbreaking losses.
Every gift to the Ecuador Relief & Reconstruction Fund, no matter the size, makes a real difference.
Our deepest gratitude for your prayers and support.