CARE International is warning of an increased risk of mosquito-borne disease in earthquake-hit Ecuador, with Zika virus and dengue fever posing immediate threats.
The powerful magnitude-7.8 earthquake killed at least 500 people when it struck on Saturday and left thousands of people homeless.
CARE’s Emergency Team Leader in Ecuador, Lucy Harman, said the recovery effort was being hampered by bad weather.
“Several days of heavy rains have hindered search and rescue efforts, leaving many of the deceased still under rubble,” Ms Harman said.
“There is a lot of stagnant water which greatly increases the number of breeding sites for mosquitoes. As a result, there’s a higher risk of mosquito-borne disease such as Zika virus and dengue fever.
“It is critical that interventions are made to prevent disease outbreaks. Our teams are responding by distributing water purification tablets and providing temporary water tanks.”
The earthquake was one of the strongest the country has ever experienced and aftershocks are still being felt.
“Clean water is one of the biggest needs. People have made signs everywhere asking for water,” Ms Harman said, speaking from Jama, one of the hardest hit areas in the coastal province of Manabi.
“It’s like a ghost town here. Everything is destroyed so everyone is sleeping outside the town in makeshift shelters and the smell of death permeates the air.”
In addition to clean water and disease prevention initiatives, CARE is also providing temporary shelter materials for those affected and is helping authorities to remove rubble.
CARE has been working in Ecuador for over 50 years. CARE’s programs have focused on helping poor communities through health and sanitation, education, forestry and women’s empowerment programs. CARE’s past work in Ecuador has included an emergency response to severe floods in 2008.