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Ecuador: Volcanic Ashfall Early Action Final Report on Early Action Phase (EAP2019EC01)

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The IFRC’s Programme and Operations Division approved the Ecuadorian Red Cross’s Early Action Protocol (EAP) for Ecuador: Volcanic Ashfall in April 2019 with a timeframe of five years and a budget of 246,586 Swiss francs, consisting of 140,660 Swiss francs for readiness and prepositioning and 105,926 Swiss francs for early action. Of the early action amount, the operation’s expenditures were 84,140 Swiss francs. The remaining 21,786 Swiss francs will be returned to the Forecast-based Action (by the DREF). The EAP is funded from the IFRC’s FbA (by the DREF) by which allocations are drawn on annual basis to cover readiness and pre-positioning costs and as a one off upon trigger to implement early actions.

The IFRC sincerely thanks ECHO for providing 50,000 US dollars at the beginning of the intervention (29 September 2020) to replenish the launch of actions with the activation of the EAP.


Short description the Early Action Protocol

On 21 September 2020, the Ecuadorian Red Cross (ERC) activated its Early Action Protocol for volcanic ash in response to the significant increase in the level of eruptive activity of the Sangay volcano. The ERC, in coordination with the National Polytechnic School Geophysical Institute (IGEPN), analysed the potential scenarios and levels of impact based on information generated by several satellite images (GOES16 Satellite) and information issued by local institutions (decentralized autonomous governments-GADS, communities of Alausí, National Risk Management Service, Network of Volcano Observers). Ash dispersion models showed a high probability of ashfall in the provinces of Chimborazo and Bolívar, which triggered the EAP.

The Sangay volcano's eruptive process had been evolving since 7 May 2020. On 9 June 2020, the IGEPN issued a special warning and monitoring report identifying a potential eruptive event possibly involving the collapse of the lava front down the south-eastern flank of the volcano. The ash emissions generated during this event were pushed southwest by the strong winds, leading to ashfall in the following provinces (with their respective cantons): of Chimborazo (Alausí, Cebadas, Guamote, Chunchi, Riobamba); Bolívar (Guaranda, Chimbo, Echandía, Chillanes, Las Naves, Caluma); Guayas (Guayaquil, Milagro, Durán, Simón Bolívar, Bucay, Naranjito, Samborondón, San Jacinto de Yaguachi, Marcelino Maridueña, Juján, Daule, Nobol, Salitre, Gral. Vernaza, El Empalme); Santa Elena (Santa Elena, La Libertad, Salinas); Los Ríos (Ventanas, Valencia); and Morona Santiago (Morona).

On 20 September 2020, the IGEPN reported a significant increase in the level of eruptive activity, indicating that, potentially, the most affected provinces would be Chimborazo and Bolívar, with ash accumulations bigger than 3 millimetres and 1 millimetre, respectively, which would be enough to affect agriculture (Figure 1).

According to the INEC-2010 population census, the potentially affected population is estimated as:

  • 2 – 5 mm: 30.057 population
  • 5 – 10 mm: 2.708 population
  • 10 – 30 mm: 20.188 population

Figure 2 shows the intervention map, which was based on IGEPN analyses and information, making it possible to identify the areas with an intervention index of “Very High” (in red) according to risk analysis that took into account the vulnerability, responsiveness and exposure of each area. The map allowed analysing the ashfall isopachs, represented as quadrants detailing the expected thickness of ash in communities, and showed that 10 to 30 mm of ash were expected to fall in the area of Guamote, Cebadas and Palmira, 3 to 5 mm in the communities of Pallatanga, Juan de Velasco, Pungalá, and 2 to 5 mm in the communities of San Pablo de Atenas, San Miguel, Columbe and Chillanes Santiago de Quito.

Given this warning, the Ecuadorian Red Cross' National Risk Management Programme requested the IFRC to activate the Early Action Protocol for Volcanic Ash Dispersion, carrying out the following actions:

  • Drawing up and socialization of the intervention map.
  • Intervention map updates based on scenarios of the Sangay volcano activity process.
  • Coordination between ERC national headquarters and the ERC Chimborazo provincial board for the implementation of actions.
  • Socialization of the actions to be carried out under the Volcanic Ash EAP with National Society authorities and operational programmes.
  • Arrangements for the distribution of health kits and livelihoods protection kits prepositioned in strategic warehouses (Quito, Tungurahua).
  • Distribution of health protection household kit, containing 5 N95 masks, 5 protective goggles.
  • Distribution of livelihoods protection kit, containing 1 tarp or plastic sheet and tools (shelter kit).
  • Distribution and delivery of cash in a cash-based intervention (CBI).
  • Mobilization of the ERC National Risk Management Programme technical team, Institutional Communications, IFRC staff from the Ecuador office to manage, support and monitor early actions in the field.

The EAP was activated within the context of the COVID-19 health emergency; therefore, the National Society immediately implemented basic protection and safety measures (provision of personal protection equipment- PPE including K95 face masks, as well dissemination of key biosafety messages) for volunteers, technical staff and communities, especially in the field.

Given this sanitary emergency, several budget lines were unable to be used. International missions were not possible and the travel costs for ERC volunteers to the field was much lower than expected as only staff and volunteers with insurance against COVID-19 were mobilized. Additionally, the lessons learned workshop was online, which had no costs. As will be mentioned below, physiological saline solution was not purchased since the pandemic needs made this item scarce in the country. It is for this reason, as mentioned above, that only 84,657 of the budgeted 105,926 Swiss francs for early action were executed.

Additionally, the ERC monitored areas outside of the area where the EAP was activated. The communities of Chillanes canton in Bolivar province were also affected by the eruption of the Sangay volcano. The water sources that supply more than 19 communities in the canton were contaminated, leaving residents without access to a safe water supply. In addition, crops in the area were exposed to substantial quantities of ash, which led to their destruction. As this area is highly reliant on income from agricultural products, this negatively impacted community members’ livelihoods. As a result, on 6 October 2020, the ERC launched a separate DREF operation (Ecuador: Volcanic Eruption – MDREC016) as a complementary process to the general response of the ashfall caused by the eruption of the Sangay volcano. Both operations were implemented concurrently.