Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Ecuador hit with first Zika virus cases

Ecuador hit with first Zika virus cases

QUITO, Ecuador—Ecuador said Friday it has detected its first two cases of the Zika virus, a mosquito-borne disease similar to dengue fever that has been linked to birth defects.
Ecuadoran officials had previously detected four people who arrived from other countries with the disease, which is spreading through Latin America and the Caribbean.

But this is the first time it has been transmitted on Ecuadoran soil, said Veronica Espinosa, deputy cabinet minister responsible for monitoring outbreaks.
“We have now detected, confirmed by laboratory tests, the first two native cases. That is, we now have cases of the virus being transmitted by mosquito bites that happened in Ecuadoran territory,” she told a press conference.
Health Minister Margarita Guevara said the two patients were a 23-year-old woman infected in the northwest and a 15-year-old boy infected in the southwest.
She said they were in stable condition.
Zika can cause fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis, with symptoms usually lasting less than a week.
But in pregnant women, the virus can spread to the fetus and cause brain shrinkage or death.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Images of El Nino

Images of El Nino 
Ecuador Coast

The El Niño phenomenon of 2015-2016 is expected to be rival that of 1997-1998, which caused losses equal to 14.5 percent of Ecaudor’s GDP. El Niño causes a weakening of the trade winds, allowing heat to accumulate. The phenomenon shifts global weather, causing flooding in some areas and droughts in others.
Ecuador and Peru are the countries that are most directly affected by El Niño. If predictions are correct, the months ahead could cause debilitating floods, outbreaks of mosquito-borne illnesses, and catastrophic crop and infrastructure damage.
I write from coastal Manabi Province in Ecuador, which experienced the most fatalities in the country during the 1997-1998 event, totaling 104. There is awareness of severe El Niño predictions, but most people I’ve spoken with in the southern coastal town of Puerto Lopez think it will not be as severe as forecasts.
There have been warnings in past years that haven’t come to fruition, leaving many to think the coming months will be uneventful as well. Others are hopeful that an El Niño event could bring rains, ending a severe drought in the region. The current president, Rafael Correa, has significantly augmented the infrastructure in this South American country, leaving some to wonder how it would weather El Niño event.
“I do not think we’re ready [for El Niño],” says Roque Mendoza, the former coordinator for the Secretariat of Risk Management for Manabi Province. “Lack of training, and people not knowing what to do in an emergency, is what causes tragedies to be magnified.”
Although one Puerto Lopez hotel owner I spoke with constructed a flood wall behind his property after El Niño flooding in 2002 and another homeowner is adding fill to raise the elevation of their property, I see few other people taking preventative actions. Recent governmental infrastructure improvements may help the situation, if planned and executed with natural disasters in mind.
In Puerto Lopez, a major beachfront construction project is building bridges over rivers and burying beachfront power lines under a new road, which could help prepare the town for strong storms. Residents, however, are concerned by the fact that the beachfront road is now at a higher elevation than some of the surrounding homes, potentially contributing to flooding. There is also a sense among many residents that this project doesn’t address more urgent needs, such as waste water treatment and access to potable water.
The Chamber of Agriculture of Zone II (along Ecuador’s southern coast) is urging the government to declare a state of emergency before the arrival of El Niño. They believe the government has not adequately prepared for the phenomenon, by clearing canals and dredging rivers, giving a path for the removal of flood waters.
In contrast, the Peruvian government has already declared a state of emergency in over half of the country’s regions. There, the government has been cleaning out coastal riverbeds, building flood walls, and distributing mobile bridges to avoid communities getting cut off if existing bridges fail.

Fishing is one of the primary industries in coastal Ecuador, and an El Niño event could have major consequences.
As many fish species migrate to colder waters and others lose weight from lack of food, the industry could be heavily impacted, resulting in lower yields. This is difficult to prepare for, other than seeking out fish species that are less impacted by a change in ocean temperatures.
There is also concern about 500 square miles of shrimp pools at risk of flooding, causing fear in the shrimp sector.

Drought has plagued many farmers in Ecuador in recent years, disproportionately impacting farmers without access to irrigation or wells. The predicted storms and floods could cause crop damage and landslides.
In other cases, the damage is more indirect. The predicted El Niño flooding could kill snakes, causing a spike in rodent populations that could damage sugarcane, for example. Infrastructure damage could make roads impassible, making it impossible to sell crops and causing income loss.
In Ecuador, many of the farms cultivate a monoculture of just one agricultural product, with thousands of seasonal labors used for the harvest. In the Ecuadorian lowlands, this is most commonly bananas or sugarcane. Large plantations are often less resistant to natural disasters because crop diversity can help mitigate the risk of crop failure. In addition, large plantations may waste a viable harvest because farm workers cannot be brought in for the harvest during a natural disaster.
El Niño rains, however, could break the drought and offer relief along the southern coast of Ecuador. Some of the cropland in Manabi Province is now fallow due to drought, forcing inhabitants to seek out other forms of employment. It does, however, put more pressure on income from fishing and tourism, which would be at risk if the El Niño event does materialize as predicted.
Increased health risk

Increased precipitation can lead to a spike in mosquito-borne illnesses in Ecuador, including malaria, chikungunya and dengue. Damage to sanitation infrastructure combined with an interruption in health services and lack of access to safe drinking water could lead to illness, especially among more vulnerable populations.
There have been public health campaigns in Ecuador to prevent mosquito-borne illnesses. Health professionals have walked around town, hanging posters and talking to business owners. Public service announcements on the topic are also relatively common, but unfortunately so are practices that encourage the breeding of mosquitoes.
At-risk populations
Natural disasters often disproportionately affect certain groups of people more than others. Having savings can serve as a buffer against loss of income and increases the means to evacuate during natural disaster. Owning medical supplies allows people to treat themselves for minor injuries and prevents the development of more major health ailments. Living in durable homes that are not constructed in floodplains mitigates the risk and damage of flooding. Overcrowding of housing and lack of access to safe drinking water that plague developing countries increase illness and the spread of infectious disease.
Environmental degradation
Massive and rapid deforestation has occurred in Ecuador’s coastal forests in since the 1950s, where 70 percent of the coastal mangroves have been removed by the commercial shrimp industry.
Deforestation compounds the impact of El Niño. Loss of vegetation increases the occurrence of mudslides, which caused the most fatalities in Ecuador during El Niño event of 1997-1998. Deforestation also contributes to soil erosion, which clogs waterways and causes floods.
“Disasters are not only caused by nature, but also by human hands and lack of prevention,” says Roque Mendoza.

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Foreign residents may be Regulated

Foreign residents may be Regulated

Foreign Ministry studies impact of foreign residents on Cuenca; says some regulation may be required due to affect on local population
Claiming that the number of U.S., Canadian and British foreign residents living in Cuenca exceeds 5,000, Ecuador’s foreign ministry says that some regulation of the influx may be necessary to mitigate the economic impact on the local population.

Foreign residents at a Cuenca restaurant.
The ministry says that in addition to English-speaking foreigners living in Cuenca, there are another 4,000 Latin American immigrants in the city, mostly Colombians and Peruvians.
The ministry says that about 1,000 to 2,000 new foreign residents arrive in Cuenca each year.
Humberto Cordero, who heads the ministry’s office of human mobility, says Cuenca is “flattered” that it has become such a popular destination for foreigners but that the impact on local services, health care and prices must be considered.
“We need to maintain a healthy environment for both Ecuadorians as well as our foreign visitors,” Cordero said. “If we don’t plan for the growth, there can be negative impacts on social and cultural life. We also don’t want bad feelings to develop that could create a xenophobic atmosphere for foreigners,” he said.
Citing a study by the University of Cuenca, Cordero said that foreigners tend to concentrate in the center of the city, in the historic district and within a 15-minute drive of it. “This concentration can affect the local population in terms of availability of housing and services and increased prices,” he said. “We are looking at the impact on real estate, among other things.”
The figure of 12,000 U.S., Canadian and European expats was based on estimates provided by the University of Cuenca, not from Interior Ministry’s immigration office statistics, Cordero said. In the past, immigration authorities said it could not provide exact figures but estimated the number of U.S. and European residents at “about 5,000.” The Ministry said in late 2013 that there were about 38,000 U.S. and European residents living in all of Ecuador.
The U.S. Embassy and Consulate say that their “best guess” is that there are about 4,000 U.S. citizens living in Cuenca. “There’s no way for us to keep accurate records about this,” said former U.S. Guayaquil consul general David Lindwall. “It anybody’s guess.”

Cordero said that the foreign ministry will propose measures to lessen the impact of foreigners living in Cuenca but did not provide a date when the proposals will be announced.

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Cell Phone, and housing news

Ecuador increases mobile phone import quota by 18%

The government of Ecuador has increased its annual mobile phone import quota to USD 250 million this year, reports local daily El Comercio. The national scheme allows companies to import phones to meet demand that cannot be met by domestic production, with users allowed to buy one device a year by post on payment of a 15 percent fee plus 12 percent in VAT. 

Ecuador's Housing Social Contract 

Quito, Jan 6 (Prensa Latina) President of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, revealed that his government halved the deficit of housing in the country, but still needs to provide 500,000 houses to repay this historic debt.
According to the president, the country itself could solve the deficit in a few years with its own resources and profits, therefore he called for a vote of confidence for his political project during the opening ceremony of a complex of 204 homes in Los Rios province, located in the central part of the country's coastline.

At the beginning of his government in 2007, the housing shortage was one million, and it has already managed to reduce it by half but the continuity of the Citizen Revolution is needed to ensure the development of works like this one.

Correa criticized the fact that being Los Rios one of the most productive provinces in the country, it suffers high levels of poverty, explicable only by the inequality, exploitation and injustice that was submitted in previous decades.

But the government is able to ensure a decent shelter for every Ecuadorian family, for their children, that if the others do not come, referring to the upcoming general elections scheduled for February 2017.

That's what will be at stake in the upcoming elections, vote for the Citizen Revolution, urged the dignitary.

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Could this work in Ecuador

Mexico's soda tax linked to 6 percent drop in sugary drink sales
Researchers find significant decline in sales of sugary drinks in the first year, implying the tax is effective

Mexico is the first country in the world to tax sugar-sweetened drinks in an effort to curb consumption blamed for obesity and related diseases — and it appears to be working.
Analyzing the first release of data on the effects of the tax, researchers found that sales of sugary beverages across the country dropped by an average of 6 percent in the first year after Mexico implemented the 1 peso (about 6 cents) per liter tax on Jan. 1, 2014, according to a study report published Wednesday in the British Medical Journal.

The decline reached 12 percent for December 2014, and it was even larger among poorer households, the study showed.

“Mexico is a good example that the tax is working, and it can be implemented in other countries,” said Aranxta Colchero, a health economist at Mexico’s National Public Health Institute and lead author of the study.

Researchers from Mexico’s National Public Health Institute and the University of North Carolina’s Department of Nutrition used nationally representative data gathered by Nielsen Mexico's Consumer Panel Services on food purchases between January 2012 and December 2014 from more than 6,200 households in 53 Mexican cities with populations of at least 50,000.
During 2014, the study found, consumers in Mexico bought an average of 6 percent fewer sugary drinks than would have been expected without the tax, which increased the cost of sodas and other sugar-sweetened beverages by about 10 percent. They bought an average of 4 percent more untaxed drinks, such as bottled water.

While Mexicans across income levels bought fewer sugar-laden beverages, it was the poorer households that seemed most affected by the taxes. Their sugary drink purchases declined by an average of 9 percent in 2014, and by 17 percent by the end of that year.
The researchers said that while their study didn’t look at smaller towns or rural areas, it shows the tax has promise in deterring Mexicans from drinking so many sugar-sweetened drinks. They expect the effect to continue in the long term.

Based on economic studies and the team’s previous work, Colchero said they could expect an even larger decline in soda sales with a tax of at least 2 pesos (about 12 cents) per liter — about a 20 percent price increase. But she added that the tax should be implemented alongside other policies, such as public health campaigns and labeling on food and drinks containing excessive added sugar.
“We need to have potable tap water available for households and in schools,” she said. “People should be aware of what they’re drinking.”

In an op-ed that accompanied the paper, Franco Sassi, head of the public health division of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), lauded the results for confirming that taxation can be an effective way to encourage healthier behavior.
However, he agreed with Colchero that such measures should complement other policies, adding: “Taxes can be part of a public health strategy — and Mexico’s is a great example for other countries — but they cannot be viewed as a magic bullet in the fight against obesity."
Mexico is one of the world’s top consumers of sugary beverages. The average Mexican drinks 111 liters of sugar-sweetened drinks per year, while the average American drinks 103 liters a year, according to a 2015 Euromonitor report.
Mexico also has the highest prevalence of diabetes among OECD countries, according to the Brookings Institution, a Washington-based think tank.
In November 2015, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued its first-ever recommendation that Americans limit their sugar intake to no more than 10 percent of their daily calories, or roughly the equivalent of one soda per day.
The World Health Organization made the same recommendation in March 2015, but added that cutting sugar to less than 5 percent of daily calories “would provide additional health benefits,” and would help prevent diabetes and heart disease.

Friday, 1 January 2016

International All Dance contest

International All Dance contest

Bringing Ballet, modern dance hip hop and more to Salinas

For all you expats out there moaning that there is no culture in Salinas, where were you when this was showing.
This two day event attracted dance teams from as far away as California, Miami, Brazil Columbia, Peru, and Argentina.
The final of this competition is to be held in Miami July 2016.   
Below is an example of what you could be seen.

Couple in Ecuador

Couple in Ecuador


Fernando Machado, left, taking a selfie with his partner Diane Rodriguez. The transgender couple announced on social media they were having a baby, believed to be the first pregnancy of its kind in South America.

A couple in Ecuador is making history with a unique pregnancy: The father-to-be is carrying the baby of his transgender partner.
Fernando Machado and Diane Rodriguez announced their pregnancy, believed to be the first of its kind in South America, on social media earlier this month and it’s received widespread attention in a continent that has seen a sudden explosion in the rights and visibility of trans people.
Rodriguez, who was born Luis, is one of Ecuador’s most-prominent LGBT activists and says she and her Venezuelan-born partner, whose birth name was Maria, decided to publicize the pregnancy to help change attitudes in the staunchly Roman Catholic society. Although both take hormones, neither has undergone gender-reassignment surgery, so the child-to-be was conceived the old-fashioned way with no known medical complications to date.
“We’re trying to break the myths about transsexuality,” Rodriguez told The Associated Press.
So far, church leaders have remained silent, something that Rodriguez says both surprises and pleases her.
“The church is always criticizing gays and homosexuals for adopting children, so it would be a contradiction to criticize us for giving birth naturally,” she said from her home in Guayaquil.

The trans community has made major advances across South America. About six months ago, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos issued a decree allowing individuals to change their gender on the national ID cards with little more than a trip to a public notary. To date, at least 340 people have made the switch.
Argentina has gone even further with legislation guaranteeing free hormone treatment and gender reassignment surgery.

However, trans people still face widespread discrimination in the region. Between 2008 and 2011, 79 per cent of the murders of transgender people reported throughout the world took place in Latin America, with a total of 664 cases, according to a study by the International AIDS Alliance.