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Red Cross Aids Ecuadorian Volcano Survivors
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Cristina Tenas
September 27, 2006

The American Red Cross joined an international relief mission after Ecuador's Tungurahua volcano exploded twice this summer, threatening surrounding villages and destroying food supplies.

Massive clouds of ash, steam and gas, as well as lava and volcanic rock fragments led to the evacuation of tens of thousands of people living in the many communities near the base of the volcano. The volcanic eruptions affected more than 300,000 people – forcing 19,000 to leave their homes – and resulted in four people dead, 65 injured and two missing. The eruptions affected the food security of local populations by destroying an estimated 40,000 head of cattle and putting at risk more than 150,000 hectares of agricultural land.

The work carried out by the Ecuadorian Red Cross will be coordinated with the local authorities and the local Red Cross branches in the provinces affected. Around 300 Ecuadorian Red Cross volunteers will be involved in this operation, one of the biggest in the history of this National Society.
Photo Credit: International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies

Answering a request for assistance from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (Federation), the American Red Cross contributed $50,000, provided by the U.S. government.

This contribution will support the Ecuadorian Red Cross in providing assistance to 5,000 affected people. The funds will help families in need by providing food, hygiene supplies, cleaning products, blankets, torches, spades, masks and protective glasses in Tungurahua and Chimborazo, the provinces that suffered the most damage. These funds will also help the Ecuadorian Red Cross provide psychosocial support, water and sanitation services, and basic healthcare to those affected.

The American Red Cross was quick to assist the Ecuadorian Red Cross thanks to an American Red Cross delegate based in Ecuador. Corey Michaud has been in Ecuador for the past year working with the Ecuadorian Red Cross on an ongoing project to provide humanitarian assistance in five conflict-affected provinces.

Due to its extensive experience organizing disaster response and preparedness activities, the Ecuadorian Red Cross has the capability to respond rapidly to an emergency event. The Ecuadorian Red Cross mobilized hundreds of volunteers, and offered evacuation, search and rescue services and first aid. As of late August, assistance had reached more that 5,500 families in the Tungurahua, Chimborazo, Pastaza and Bolívar provinces.

“We are implementing procedures to prevent possible epidemics that could result from the use of contaminated water. Some people are traumatized by this crisis. Therefore, psychosocial support teams are working with the families and children to help them cope with the crisis,” said Ecuadorian Red Cross President Juan Cueva. “We are mainly concerned with people’s health because there have been cases of respiratory infections, results of the inhalation of the volcano’s ash.”

The Tungurahua volcano is one of the most active in Ecuador. The Geographic Institute of Ecuador has announced that new eruptions may occur in the coming months causing more damage and economic loss.

Cristina Trenas is a journalism student working as an intern at American Red Cross headquarters in Washington, D.C.

You can help those affected by countless crises around the world each year by making a financial gift to the American Red Cross International Response Fund, which will provide immediate relief and long-term support through supplies, technical assistance and other support to help those in need. Call 1-800-RED CROSS or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish). Contributions to the International Response Fund may be sent to your local American Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross International Response Fund, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013. Internet users can make a secure online contribution by visiting www.redcross.org. The American Red Cross honors donor intent. If you wish to designate your donation to a specific disaster please do so at the time of your donation.

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