Ecuador: Extreme rainfall related to the El Niño phenomenon - Early Action Protocol summary (EAP2020EC02)

Situation Report
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The IFRC Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) has approved a total allocation of CHF 249,983 from its Forecast-based Action (FbA) mechanism for the Ecuadorian Red Cross (ERC). The approved amount consists of an immediate allocation of CHF 135,565 for readiness and prepositioning and CHF 114,418 automatically allocated to implement early actions once the defined triggers are met.

The FbA by the DREF is a forecast-based financing mechanism managed by the DREF. Allocations for FbA by the DREF are made from a separate financial component of the DREF (MDR00004) and do not affect the reserves of DREF appeal code MDR00001. Unearmarked contributions to the FbA by the DREF are encouraged to guarantee that enough funding is available for the Early Action Protocols created.


Ecuador faces multiple threats because of its geophysical features, geographical location and the atmospheric systems that directly or indirectly affect the country. Figure 1 below shows the people affected by natural hazards over a six-year period (2010 to 2016) as well as the percentage of people, by province, affected by hazards such as earthquakes, extreme rainfall, volcanic activity, droughts, frost and others. One of the most significant are the extreme rains in provinces located along the Ecuadorian coast (e.g., El Oro, Los Ríos, Manabí).

Ecuador has experienced several episodes of the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomenon: 1982-1983 and 1997-1998, according to records. The latter caused the greatest impact, causing loss of human lives, damage to housing, public infrastructure, economic activities, in addition to the numerous cases of disease resulting from the extreme rainfall. In 1982, 950,000 people (5,700 homes in rural areas and 8,000 in urban areas) were affected by ENSO. While in 1997, three deaths were reported, 3,700 people were evacuated, 10,000 were affected and nearly 2,000 homes were damaged.

According to an assessment report by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the socioeconomic effects of the El Niño phenomenon in 1997-1998 amounted to $2,882 million US dollars.


The extreme rainfall caused by El Niño along the Ecuadorian coast causes rivers to overflow and flash floods in vulnerable communities.

Early Action Protocol (EAP): Extreme rainfall (El Niño phenomenon)

The Ecuadorian Red Cross created the Early Action Protocol for extreme rainfall related to the El Niño phenomenon along the Ecuadorian coast. It is a tool to guide the timely and effective implementation of early actions based on weather forecasts predicting a high chance of rains generated by an El Niño event that would cause a negative impact to people and property. The window of opportunity enables actions to be taken to avoid the possibility of a humanitarian crisis in vulnerable areas.

This plan has been designed with technical contributions from the National Meteorology and Hydrology Institute (INAMHI), the Navy's Oceanographic Institute (INOCAR), the National Risk and Emergency Management Service (SNGRE) and the Regional Study of the El Niño Phenomenon (ERFEN). All actors involved in this protocol play an essential role during readiness and activation for implementation of early actions.

The Early Action Protocol refers to actions that will be implemented in the event of extreme rains that cause rivers to overflow and floods, which are triggered by seasonal, sub-seasonal and medium-term forecasts issued by the ERFEN bulletin, INAMHI seasonal forecast (three-month) and INAMHI forecasts (one month, five to seven days), respectively.

Target population

1,000 families targeted to receive humanitarian assistance, of which 300 of the most vulnerable will be prioritized to be reached by a cash transfer programme (CTP), based on analysis and definition of criteria.

The coastal provinces of Esmeraldas, Manabí, Guayas, Santa Elena, Los Ríos, El Oro and Santo Domingo are potential high-risk areas where the forecast-based readiness mechanism (El Niño phenomenon EAP) could be activated. These localities have historically been directly affected by intense rains caused by the El Niño phenomenon.


Based on historical records and community assessments conducted in the field in sectors recurrently affected by floods, the Ecuadorian Red Cross decided to work along intervention lines in areas of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) and Livelihoods. For the purposes of this EAP, the ENSO in Ecuador is considered a long-term phenomenon from its onset, evolution and impact.


The forecasts to be used define three different lead times:
- Seasonal forecast: three seasonal months of extreme rainfall (INAMHI). The criterion will be backed by the consensus of experts in the ERFEN bulletin.
- Sub-seasonal forecast: one month, with forecast of extreme rainfall (INAMHI).
- Medium-term forecast: five to seven days, with a forecast of meteorological hazard (INAMHI).

The EAP assumes that:
- The seasonal forecast gives a three-month preparation time
- The sub-seasonal forecast gives a one-month preparation time and specifies the region potentially most affected by extreme rainfall.
- ERC national headquarters and branches are operational and can count on at least 20 active volunteers (current or newly recruited) per branch for response.
- There is access to vulnerable communities in the days prior to the event (accessibility by road notwithstanding weather, road conditions or absence of strikes and other socio-political disruptions).
- Accessibility of funds from this financial mechanism once activated can be available in the field within 48 hours.
- Mayors are available seven days a week for mobilization and coordination, and respond quickly in the event of an emergency.