Food insecurity, lack of shelter put Venezuelans in Ecuador at risk

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) announced the launch of operations in Ecuador, expanding their long-standing response to the Venezuela crisis, with the goal of supporting more than 25,000 people within the first 18 months.

Ecuador is the third host country for Venezuelans: more than 400,000 have settled since 2015. However, during the last years, Venezuelans have encountered greater obstacles to access livelihood opportunities and basic services as consequence of changes in immigration policies, rising levels of xenophobia (56% of people surveyed by IRC affirmed experiencing discrimination at least once) and the impact of COVID-19, which has left more than 740,000 people in need of humanitarian aid.

Marianne Menjivar, Director of the Venezuela Crisis Response at the International Rescue Committee (IRC), said:

“Life continues to be extremely difficult for Venezuelans, even after arriving in neighboring countries. While Latin American countries like Ecuador have hosted a vast number—despite insufficient international funding and support—a combination of differing immigration policies, overstretched national systems, and the effects of COVID-19 are putting pressure on their capacity to respond. We call for the international community to allocate enough funding that allows for the development of a comprehensive response to the Venezuela crisis, based on the needs of the population in the places where they are.”

The IRC’s response in Ecuador was designed based on needs identified through an assessment conducted in 2021. In collaboration with local partners—and working with them to share capacities and strengthen the delivery of services—the IRC will respond to critical needs in Guayaquil, Ibarra, Lago Agrio, Machala, Pimampiro, Quito and Tulcán, including:

  • Multipurpose cash transfers paired with financial education and security training, to empower Venezuelans to cover their priority needs, avoiding negative coping mechanisms.
  • Food security, through the delivery of food kits for households and direct provision of warm meals at community dining rooms to combat hunger.
  • Protection issues, including gender-based violence prevention and child protection activities as well as case management for vulnerable populations.
  • Early childhood development, by creating safe spaces for children between 0 and 5 years, engaging educators and caregivers in the process to promote children’s stimulation, autonomy, free movement and understanding of their own body.
  • Health, reinforcing COVID-19 prevention measures through the delivery of personal protection equipment kits, which represent a high cost for vulnerable populations.

The main needs identified by the IRC in Ecuador

During 2021, the IRC conducted a needs assessment in Ecuador to inform the expansion of its response to support the most critical needs of Venezuelans. Based on a series of interviews with Venezuelan families across the country, complemented by perspectives of other stakeholders, the IRC identified three main needs:

  • Food. The most noted need, prioritized by more than 70% of survey respondents. Food insecurity forces Venezuelans to adopt negative coping strategies like limiting portion sizes, begging on the streets or spending at least one day a week without eating.
  • Money for housing and access to shelter. The second most mentioned need, prioritized by 69% of women and 59% of men surveyed. Venezuelans already settled usually rent rooms or share houses with several families, while those still in transit rely on shelters (closed due to COVID-19) or often sleep on the street.
  • Access to a job. 55% of men and 62% of women noted this need, as most work without official documentation, being at risk of exploitation or being fined by the government. To access formal jobs, Venezuelans face obstacles like the lack of a passport (only 1 out of 4 survey respondents had it) and having to purchase a work permit that costs US $250. Venezuelans are working in any job they can find, making a daily average of US $5.15—while minimum wage in the country is US $20.00 a day—meaning they would have to work 21 months to pay for the work permit.

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