Esmeraldas is a northern border province with Colombia in the Pacific zone and one of the main ports in Ecuador, being the terminal of the trans-Andean pipeline. According to official information (INEC, 2014), 76.2% of the province’s population has unsatisfied basic needs and 37.3% is in situations of extreme poverty. 43.9% of the population identifies itself as Afro-Ecuadorian and there are a number of indigenous groups in the territory: the Awá, Chachi and Épera nationalities. The province suffers from entrenched economic and security challenges. Residents also suffer the highest rates of vector borne diseases such as chikungunya and dengue. Esmeraldas is a vulnerable province to natural, anthropogenic, or combined events, because of its geographical location or physiographic, geological, tectonic and climatic characteristics. Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 health emergency, PoCs have been severely affected by food insecurity and housing needs.
The UNHCR Field Office in Esmeraldas opened in 2008 in response to the increase in Colombians seeking international protection due to the conflict in Colombia, especially in the departments of Nariño, Valle del Cauca and Cauca. UNHCR’s work is focused on providing support to the authorities in their protection responses towards the refugee and asylum seeker population for their local integration, generation of sustainable livelihoods, creation of community protection networks and strengthening of public institutions, ensuring the effective exercise of the rights of the refugee population.