Where do you go? A glimpse of what life is like for migrants and refugees in Ecuador
25-year-old Yannete was several months pregnant when she arrived in Ecuador on foot, after a gruelling 10-day journey from Venezuela. She made the difficult decision to leave her home country because of the violence – she was shot at several times in her neighbourhood. Juan, 31, also arrived in Ecuador on foot, and alone with just a small backpack. He was forced to leave his home because the medicine he needed to treat a terminal illness was impossible to find in Venezuela, due to drug shortages. 18-year-old Desiré arrived with her one-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Noa, and spent four days living on the streets until they were able to find temporary shelter.
These are just three stories among thousands from Venezuelan migrants and refugees seeking a better life in Ecuador. According to figures from the UN, more than half a million Venezuelans are now living in Ecuador, half of whom need urgent access to some form of housing. Since 2015, over 5.5 million Venezuelans have left the country, making it the world’s second-largest external displacement crisis according to IRC, just after Syria.
I would give my life for my children. I don’t want to see them suffering in the street,
People don't understand what we have had to go through in Venezuela, but those who do, we have them to thank because they helped us a lot with fundamental things like rent.
Watch this video to find out more about Yannete's story:
Venezuelans arriving in Ecuador face several challenges when it comes to employment, housing, legal status, and xenophobia, which means they are often not able to meet even their basic day to day needs like food and shelter. A recent study by CARE Ecuador showed the complications that migrants experience daily in accessing shelter and housing across seven regions of Ecuador.
62% of those surveyed reported that they had no form of work. 23% of respondents said they resorted to begging on the streets and occasional street vending, while 15% said they carry out informal and occasional jobs such as recycling, bricklaying and carpentry.
Desiré arrived in Ecuador with no place to stay and spent days sleeping outside with her one-year-old daughter.
We slept in the squares. We asked for food in the street. I was very, very ashamed. But we had to do it, even if it was to give my daughter just a bite,
After four days, she found housing at a shelter. Temporary shelters for Venezuelan migrants typically house anywhere between 18–150 people. For mothers like Desiré, these shelters often lack private space for feeding and caring for children. Cramped conditions and a lack of safe spaces, especially for women and girls, can increase risk of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV).
In Huaquillas, one of the cities CARE surveyed near the Peruvian border, shelters are operating with reduced capacity during the pandemic. But there is still regular overcrowding due to the high demand for services for the most vulnerable, including children and adolescents, survivors of SGBV, and LGBTQI+ people. Extra spaces have to be made available to accommodate sudden increases in arrivals, or for people trapped by border closures with Peru and unable to continue their journeys.
My dream is to move on, find myself a job, and get my baby ahead.
I’m gay and terminally ill. That is why I’m embarking on this journey in search of medicine and a better quality of life.
After nearly two months living on the street, Juan found an apartment with support from CARE. He needs to find work soon to continue paying rent, but job opportunities are slim. LGBTQI+ migrants and refugees face increased risk and additional challenges when it comes to meeting their basic needs, including health care access and decent housing.
CARE Ecuador provides humanitarian assistance for refugees and migrants, as well as other vulnerable groups most affected by the pandemic. CARE is currently working with grassroots organisations to provide psychosocial and legal counselling, SGBV support, cash transfers, food, hygiene kits, vouchers for temporary housing and PPE. CARE also provides seed capital and training to set up small businesses.
Home is tranquillity, union, well-being. I dream of having a normal life here in Ecuador. I want to stay here.
Watch this video to find out more about Juan's story:
CARE has been supporting refugees and displaced people for our 75 year history. Millions of displaced people need humanitarian support right now.
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