Submitted by Natalie Acosta
14 Feb 2024

Ecuador’s EAP on Extreme Rainfall related to El Niño reaches its third trigger level

In August 2023, the Ecuadorian Red Cross activated its Early Action Protocol (EAP) for Extreme Rainfall related to the El Niño Phenomenon. Since then, it has constantly monitored forecasts related to each of the trigger thresholds listed in this framework – and in early February 2024, the third trigger was reached.

Analysis of data issued by Ecuador’s National Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology from 3 to 11 February indicated that the meteorological threat level was high to very high, with estimated daily rainfall amounts greater than 80mm – the levels set out in the EAP’s third and final trigger (this article explains all three triggers).

These extreme rains, generated by El Niño, were forecast to cause rivers along the Ecuadorian coast to overflow, leading to rapid flooding in vulnerable communities. Bulletins issued by the National Committee for the Regional Study of the El Niño Phenomenon (ERFEN) indicated that rainfall will remain at moderate to heavy levels in the coastal region, especially the provinces of El Oro, Esmeraldas, Guayas, Los Ríos, Manabí, Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas and Santa Elena.

The Ecuadorian Red Cross predicted that the worst-affected areas would be Esmeraldas, Guayas and Manabí, based on these meteorological forecasts and detailed flood-risk data. With this information, the Ecuadorian Red Cross developed its intervention map, which indicates the communities that are likely to be most affected.

Anticipatory actions to target priority sectors

This final trigger has the shortest lead time – 5 to 7 days – and during this time, volunteers and water, sanitation and health (WASH) specialists will implement a series of pre-agreed actions. These include the transporting humanitarian assistance kits, which contain cleaning materials, safe water and mosquito nets, and then distributing these to approximately 1,000 families. Community brigades for disaster preparedness and response will also be involved in these activities.

Cash-based activities are also part of this activation, and volunteers and technical teams will deliver funds to 300 families through money transfers, by enabling withdrawals from ATMs (cash machines) without needing cards (this was trialled during a feasibility study).

The provinces of Los Ríos, Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas and Santa Elena are considered to be very high areas, given Ecuador’s current internal security crisis. Here, support will be provided through other mechanisms, coordinated by the National Society, with operational security criteria also being considered.

Building on previous actions

This latest set of anticipatory actions builds on the Ecuadorian Red Cross’s previous assistance to communities affected by the extreme rains generated by El Niño. The initial three-month phase (activated by the first trigger, in August 2023) saw the completion of tasks such as prepositioning the humanitarian assistance kits in its strategically located warehouses. This time was also used to share messages about the hazard with at-risk communities.

Volunteers and technical staff on the provincial boards of the Ecuadorian coastal region participated in training to develop tools for behaviour change around hygiene and improvements to water and sanitation services in communities. This was done using the Participatory Hygiene and Sanitation Transformation methodology.

Between November and December 2023, the second (one-month) trigger was reached. With it, the Ecuadorian Red Cross teams conducted water quality analysis and worked with the community brigades. Actions to prepare for the cash-based activities were also developed, including a market analysis study, the definition of the delivery mechanism, and training for communities.