With help from the government, Ecuadoreans continue to rebuild their lives and communities six months after a devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake caused billions of dollars in damage and left nearly 700 dead.
Ecuadorean Vice-President Jorge Glas said Saturday that the government had designated US$ 1.5 billion to recovery efforts and of that US$764 million had been spent, generating 56,000 direct and indirect jobs.
Resettling those displaced after losing their homes is a top priority for the government, thus far of the 12,000 people who were refuges, 7,000 remain and the number of shelters has dropped from 30 to 23.
Carlos Bernal, a former minister tasked with overseeing reconstruction, said 12,000 people had been able to return to their homes after repairs were made or new homes had been built for them.
“We have 20,700 homes under construction. 11,800 have been completed, and a further 12,000 are currently in the process of being contracted,” said Bernal.
The earthquake left many schools in affected areas unusable, so the government erected 26 provisional schools to ensure studies were not interrupted.
“The main slogan of the reconstruction is to rebuild better. All that is being rebuilt is done with seismic resistant systems to withstand new earthquakes,” added Bernal.
Reconstruction has not been without its challenges, however.
Many families opted to build informal refuges near the sites of their former homes. Although some have benefited from a government program that provides rent subsidies, many remain in precarious conditions.
Some communities were located in areas that have been deemed unsafe and local officials have told them they cannot rebuild but also have been unable to provide them with an alternative.
In the city of Bahia de Caraquez, which was severely impacted by the earthquake, lower-income residents had built their homes on top of a hill, however they never obtained the legal title to the lands their homes were located on.
In an interview conducted in late July, Yesenia Pallaroso, a leader from this community, told teleSUR that some in the community had lived there for over 40 years and they were eager to stay but needed land to build.
Pallaroso added that people are also in need of work, while she conceded that there are construction jobs available, these are not enough and not everyone is qualified to fill them.
Bahia de Caraquez was a city that relied on tourism, and although that sector has made a small recovery, it is still dramatically less than it was before, leaving many without work.
“There's no work for women here in Bahia de Caraquez … There's a lot of people without work, some who didn't have work before now have it, and the people who had work were left unemployed,” said Pallaroso.
Vice-President Glas said the government is also working on the economic recovery of the affected areas.
Some plans are already in progress, in the city of Manta, work is already underway to create what has been called a tourist corridor in the part of the city that suffered the most damage but will take years to complete.
Residents say the recovery needs to also focus on the needs of the community, incorporating their ideas and concerns.
The challenge for authorities is to ensure that recovery happens as evenly as possible and that residents are not marginalized by mega projects and are instead at the center of reconstruction efforts.