The women of Canoa

Ninja Taprogge, CARE Emergency Media Officer

Palm trees, a long sandy beach, a beautiful view of the Pacific Ocean: Two weeks ago, Canoa was one of the best surfing paradises in Ecuador. Tourists from all over the world came to spend their holidays here. But on April 16, everything changed in just a few seconds: One of the strongest earthquakes in the history of the country caused massive devastation. Entire houses collapsed, water pipes broke, and electric lines were torn apart. Nearly two weeks after the earthquake, the people of Canoa, a small town with 2,000 inhabitants, have overcome the initial shock. But the situation remains difficult, especially for women. In times of crises, they bear the brunt of sorrow. But they also show extraordinary strength:

A street closed off for demolitions of damaged buildings in Canoa. A 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck Ecuador on April 16th and damaged or destroyed nearly 2,000 houses. More than 650 people have lost their lives and over 4,600 people were injured. Jama, a city of 20,000 thousands inhabitants, in the province of Manabi is one of the hardest-hit areas. Jama, Manabi Province, Ecuador. 4/25/2016. Photo: CARE/Brendan Bannon


Fernanda, 41, is mother to a 16-year-old son and a 7-year-old daughter. She used to work for the community service, but since the earthquake hit, she volunteers to help in remote communities.

“We were driving home when the earthquake struck. Our car rocked terribly. But my husband kept on driving. Previously he had heard of a woman who had stopped in an earthquake and sunk into the ground. We made it, but since this moment, everything has changed. Luckily, our house is still there. It is robust. It already survived the earthquake of 1987. But this time, it is different. Our walls are cracked and that is why our landlord wants to tear the building down. Currently, we live next door, in the open, in a small makeshift tent. We will stay here and watch over our house because we are afraid that our furniture or other belongings might get stolen. In the first days after the earthquake there were many robberies. It was very difficult for me. With the power cuts, we sat in total darkness. But now since electrical lines are working again, I feel better. We are strong. Women in Canoa are safe. We know each other and there is no violence against women. But my daughter worries me. She has nightmares and during the day she does not know how to keep busy. Her school is completely destroyed. She used to play with friends right after school, but today she sits at home. For me, our children are what is most important. I heard one kid saying: ‘What happened is like a horror film.’ They need psychosocial support and safe places to play.”

No school

Lisbeth, 7, loves Disney movies and likes to paint. She was on vacation when the earthquake happened. Ever since April 16, she asks her mother for a girlfriend whose parents lost everything. She worries about the well-being of her friend and keeps asking whether she would have enough to eat. Her school is completely destroyed. Normally holidays would end in May, but the school will remain closed. She has no idea when she will be able to return. But she knows that she wants to speak English as well as those foreigners who visit her hometown.

“Before the earthquake hit, I did not even know that there is something like earthquakes. But now I know earthquakes are terrible.”

“My daughter Lisbeth keeps asking me about the well-being of a friend of hers whose family lost everything on a daily basis. She worries a lot. At night she cannot sleep. When she wakes up, she starts to scream and cry. A psychologist should come to visit us and other families in this town,” said 41 year-old Fernanda Loor from Canoa, Manabi Province, Ecuador. April 26, 2016 Photo: CARE/Brendan Bannon


Bridget, 20, has lost everything. Since the earthquake, she and her one-month-old daughter Kimberly Tiffany have found refuge in her mother’s house in the community of Rio Canoa. She was also with her mother when the earthquake hit. They were sitting in the family house. Her sister was holding the baby. When the earth trembled, she thought the house would fall on her head.

“I was very nervous when the earthquake hit. I was very afraid, especially because of my daughter. Today, I 'm calmer. Kimberly Tiffany was examined by a doctor. She is fine. We got the name of our daughter from a character in a telenovela on TV. Since the earthquake we get up to 10 liters of water per day. That is enough to survive. But we urgently need Pampers, milk, mild soap to wash the baby, and clothing because my husband and I lost everything.”