UNHCR opened its Field Office in Guayaquil, the second largest city in Ecuador, in 2001. Initially, this office sought to provide a humanitarian response to the Colombian refugees that had had to flee their country and had settled in the city. Currently, Guayaquil hosts the second largest population of Venezuelan refugees and migrants in Ecuador. Therefore, the main objective of UNHCR’s presence is to provide protection and promote socioeconomic inclusion of Venezuelans, Colombians, and persons of interest of any other nationality, as well as host communities. The UNHCR office in Guayaquil covers the coastal provinces of Guayas, Santa Elena and Los Rios.
The COVID-19 pandemic had a strong impact on the region of Guayaquil, the city with the second highest number of confirmed positive cases in the country. The pandemic increased the protection risks of the persons of concern: evictions, layoffs and few incoming-generating options had a negative impact on their living conditions. To address this situation, UNHCR activated immediate response actions by providing counselling through Protection hotlines and connectivity to meet the needs of the population. The Office donated food, biosecurity items, clothing and hygiene kits through partners and refugee and migrant-led associations.
As the economic capital of Ecuador and the country’s main port, Guayaquil has become a pole of attraction for people in human mobility. At the same time, the city’s commercial dynamism gives it great potential for economic integration.