CRS in Ecuador

A 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck on April 16, 2016, devastating the coastal communities of Esmeraldas and Manabí. Catholic Relief Services responded to the emergency in coordination with the local and national government, other humanitarian organizations and local partner institutions. With over 750,000 people affected, CRS has chosen to work with communities in greatest need. We provide shelters, latrines and training for safe water, sanitation and hygiene practices. Our efforts have focused on 77 communities, with over 1,200 families in Manabí and over 900 families in Esmeraldas. While aftershocks persist and seasonal rains have complicated relief efforts, CRS continues to help local partners support the resilience and recovery of their communities.

Ecuador hosts the largest number of refugees in Latin America. Most are Colombians who fled the armed conflict that began in their country in the 1960s. While a peace agreement has been reached, the flow of refugees continues as instability in the border area persists. Refugees have settled mainly in the provinces of Pichincha, Sucumbíos, Esmeraldas, Carchi and Imbabura. The people who suffer most as refugees are children and youth, women, indigenous people, Afro-Colombians, the poor and people with disabilities.

In partnership with the Scalabrini Mission, CRS works with Colombian refugees and representatives of the communities where they resettle. CRS' humanitarian work in Ecuador supports projects that provide critical humanitarian, psychological, social and legal aid in the five provinces on the Colombian-Ecuadorian border. CRS’ work also addresses the issue of trafficking of persons, an emerging challenge within this context.


People served: 192,868

Population: 16,290,913

Size: 109,484 sq. mi.; slightly smaller than Nevada

CRS' History in Ecuador

Catholic Relief Services began working in Ecuador in 1955, providing food, medicine, clothes and school nutrition programs. Over the years, however, development indicators showed that charity and direct assistance were not breaking the cycle of poverty.

In response, the Catholic Church began working with indigenous communities to strengthen local organizations, improve access to land and introduce new farming methods. Such initiatives proved that sustainable development requires integrated economic, social and organizational programs. We have built on that approach, serving vulnerable and marginalized communities in Ecuador with humanitarian aid; natural disaster preparation and response; rural, health and childhood development programs; and microfinance.

In 2009, CRS decided to change its strategic focus in the country. We now focus on aid to and integration of Colombian refugees, as well as sustainable livelihoods projects along the northern border.

In a context of high poverty and inequality, newcomers face significant discrimination and prejudice, as well as labor exploitation. Furthermore, violence against Colombian women in Ecuador is widespread. Gender-based violence is trivialized based on ideas conveyed by the media and popular culture. Consequently, discriminatory, xenophobic and violent attitudes toward them are justified. In partnership with the Scalabrini Mission, and funded by the State Department’s Bureau of Population and Migration, CRS provides humanitarian aid and psychosocial support for victims and survivors of gender-based violence, and works with schools to accommodate children and adolescents who come to border communities.

Catholic Relief Services also provides training and support for income generation through productive ventures and SILC (Savings and Internal Lending Committees) microfinance groups that benefit the most vulnerable, and influence local authorities to develop favorable public policies for vulnerable populations.

The Borderlands Coffee Project is helping smallholder farming families boost household income through improved yields, increased cup quality, enhanced organizational capacity and expanded access to specialty markets. In Ecuador, the project is working in the northern Amazon with farmers growing Robusta-variety coffee.

CRS works with Pastoral Social Caritas Ecuador to produce the original radio series, "Pan-Amazon: Source of Life in the Heart of the Church." The series is made up of 21 radio programs and is disseminated on every platform of The Latin American Association for Radio Education (ALER) throughout the region to help encourage and stimulate reflection and problem-solving on conflicts in the Amazon.      

The Social Pastoral Project, supported by CRS, has promoted encounters in the Amazon provinces of Ecuador between the Church and civil society organizations to document the historic role of the Church in defending the interests of indigenous and vulnerable populations.