Makeshift post-earthquake camp - Manta Ecuador

Post-Earthquake makeshift camps #AtoZChallenge

“Living outside is crappy.” 
— Cheryl PaPania, Don Juan, Manabí, Ecuador

April 16, 2017 marked the one year anniversary of a massive 7.8 Ecuador earthquake. I described my experience the night of the earthquake earlier. Today is about a group of people I met 12 days after the quake.

Our friend’s car had been in the shop, ready for pick up, when the earthquake hit. The car was at her mechanic’s shop in Manta, an hour and a half north. His family and building structures had survived and after 11 days he proclaimed the roads passable.

Some of us collaborated to bake and purchase food and drinks for those we would meet on the drive. When we left for Manta, our car was filled with individual bags of food, juice boxes, treats, and toys for kids.

The makeshift camps that we stopped at were a few blocks from the mechanic. One was built on a wide sidewalk where the people had managed to bring bed frames to lift their mattresses off the ground.

Makeshift camp on Manta sidewalk
Raised beds provided some protection from rain
Manta, Ecuador April 28, 2016

The other makeshift camp we visited was in a sandy lot. April is in the rainy season. It rains at night, turning the sand lot into a mud lot.

Makeshift camp in Manta empty lot
Donated billboard tarps were used as shelters
Manta, Ecuador April 28, 2016

We asked if they knew about the official tent camps. They did. Their current location was within line of sight of their uninhabitable homes, which still contained their belongings. They would not move to the official camps because they could not watch for looters.

They were receiving regular drinking water delivery. The men were going every day to distribution centers to obtain donated food.

Each time we returned, we tried to anticipate their basic needs but always missed something obvious.  For example, one time they asked for bras and diaper rash medication, which we had not thought to bring.

The problems staying where they were instead of the official camps were numerous. The primary one being lack of sanitation.

By May 6, people in the camps were getting sick. They needed more help than we could provide. An acquaintance contacted someone he knew with Doctors Without Borders who arrived at the makeshift camps the next morning.

As of April 13, 2017 approximately 3,600 people are still living in tent cities. The Ministry of Housing has built 22,513 homes nationwide and 11,816 more are under construction.

2017 A to Z Challenge - P


I am a US Expat in Ecuador. I grew up on a Minnesota farm, worked in IT in California's Silicon Valley, then moved to a coastal Ecuador fishing village. My goal is to share Ecuador with you, one snippet at a time. Topics include attractions, compassion, ecotourism, Ecuador products, everyday Ecuador, and flora and fauna. Please let me know what you would like to read more about!


    • Emily Bloomquist

      Yeah, and those numbers do not include those who are funding their own rebuild. The woman I quoted in the beginning just started cooking in her indoor kitchen again this month. She and her husband have been rebuilding their home for the past year while living outside next to their home. I hope she writes a book about their experience.

  • Hilary Melton-Butcher

    Hi Emily – it must have been a life-changing time to experience this sort of after-the-earthquake scenes – reality sets in. I certainly don't know what it's like in that sort of occasion … I'm just glad you were thoughtful enough to help and offer continued help, til Doctors Without Borders were able to step in.

    I'd hate it if looters took my stuff too – so can understand their wishing to be near their uninhabitable home … cheers Hilary

  • Crystal Collier

    Wow. That's crazy to me that so many people are still without permanent housing. Can you imagine the response to those kinds of circumstances in the US? It would never fly. We do take so much for granted, eh?

  • Mandy 'n' Justin

    It's wonderful that you were able to go and help these people even within the limitations of not being able to anticipate all of their needs! I can totally understand them not wanting to go to the main camp due to their fear of looters. When you have very little, it's hard not to worry about the little that you have. 🙁 It's also good to hear that Doctors Without Borders was able to intervene and help with the sanitation problems. It's always amazing to see people helping others but it's especially nice just after a disaster. It gives me hope. 🙂

    With Love,

    • Emily Bloomquist

      The best thing is that there were thousands of people doing the same thing we were – helping anyone who needed it. The people in this country worked together to assist. And aid poured in from international organizations and individuals, too.

    • Emily Bloomquist

      Once the building projects got underway, many people who had lost their homes applied for a new home. My understanding is that the cost to the homeowner is a sliding scale based on ability to pay.

      Even before the earthquake, the government had a program to build homes for people. A friend of mine had one built 10 years ago. She described it this way: She and her husband were living with her parents. They applied for a free government home. There are a limited number of these homes built each year. They were approved the third year they applied. Once they lived in the new home for seven consecutive years, they owned it outright along with the small plot of land it is built on.

      For those who can't afford to pay for the new post-earthquake government homes, I am pretty sure it works similar to the already existing government housing program. So, they will all own their new homes after a few years.

    • Emily Bloomquist

      Rebuilding does take a long time and often then conditions are so different from what they were. Many of the towns relied primarily on tourism and fishing. The tourism just started coming back recently so for a year, many people were without homes and incomes. Quite a lot to try to absorb.

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