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Ecuador’smishandledCOVID-19healthcrisishas
alsohadseriouseconomic,educational,and
emotionalimpacts
Duetothedireexperienceofitslargestcity,Guayaquil,EcuadorbecameanearlyglobalsymbolofCOVID-19’s
devastatinghealtheffects.Butnewsurveyresearchrevealsthatthepandemichasalsohadseriouseconomic,
educational,andemotionalconsequences.Yeteveneightsmonthon,seriousfailingsinhealthandinformation
systemspersist,writeKatiuskaKing,PhilippAltmann,andRafaelPoloBonilla(UniversidadCentraldel
Ecuador).
InEcuador,theCOVID-19pandemichasalsobeenaninfodemic,withthecrisisbeingenabledbythespreadof
inaccurateinformationandalackofreliabledatatoinformdecision-making.Inordertobegintofillthatgap,our
researchgroupattheCentralUniversityofEcuadordesignedandcarriedoutasurveyonthesocialandeconomic
effectsofthepandemicforEcuadorianhouseholds.
Asidefromitsimmediateeffectonhealth,theCOVID-19crisishashadseriouseconomic,educational,
andemotionalimpactsthroughoutEcuador(ireneuke/Shutterstock.com)
FromMaytoJuly2020,weusedmobilephonemessagingtoimplementanationwide,partiallyrandomsurveyof
2,132Ecuadorianhouseholds.Aswellaseconomicdata,thesurveyincludedquestionsonemotions,accessto
information,andpoliticalvariablesthatmighthelptoexplainwhythegovernment’sresponsefailedandwhatcould
bedonetoimproveit.
EconomiceffectsofCOVID-19inEcuador
Thedatathatwegatheredrevealacleareconomicimpactonthepopulationintermsbothofpaidworkand–less
visibly–unpaidwork.
Withregardtopaidwork,in37%ofhouseholdsatleastonepersoninsalariedemploymentwasaffectedby
changesintheiremploymentsituation.TheseriousnessoftheseCOVID-relatedchangesvaried,fromreductionsin
theworkingdayandtemporarysuspensionofcontractsrightthroughtolossofemployment.
LSE Latin America and Caribbean Blog: Ecuador’s mishandled COVID-19 health crisis has also had serious economic, educational, and emotional impacts Page 1 of 6
Date originally posted: 2020-11-18
Permalink: https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/latamcaribbean/2020/11/18/ecuadors-mishandled-covid-19-health-crisis-has-also-had-serious-economic-educational-and-emotional-
impacts/
Blog homepage: https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/latamcaribbean/
Whilereductionsinhoursrepresentedthemostcommonimpact,with47%ofhouseholdsaffected,almostathirdof
householdshadamemberwholosttheirjobaltogether(29%).Worse,householdswhoseheadwasinthepre-
retirementagegroupof50-64yearsweremostlikelytoexperiencenegativeeconomicimpacts(seetablebelow).
Sincethisgroupislikelytohavemoredifficultyinfindingneworsupplementaryemployment,thiscouldeasilylead
toanincreaseinold-agepoverty.
Source:COVID-19UCEProject
ThisscenariohasclearlybeenexacerbatedbythefactthatnearlytwothirdsofemploymentinEcuadorisinformal
(60%)andthereforemorevulnerabletoinstabilityduringaneconomiccontraction.Alackofliquidityonlymakes
thisproblemworse,yetitisdifficulttocounteractinEcuador’sdollarisedeconomy.
Withinthehousehold,meanwhile,provisionofcarehasalsoincreasedsincethebeginningofthepandemic.In48%
ofcases,careistheresponsibilityofasingleindividual,andthatindividualisfarmorelikelytobeawoman.
TheCOVID-19crisisandeducationinEcuador
OurstudyalsorevealedthattheCOVID-19crisishasledtoshort-termimpactsoneducationaldecisions.Asmall
butsignificant3%ofhouseholdscontainingstudents(atanyleveluptouniversity)intendedtotemporarilywithdraw
fromeducationaltogether,while2%intendedtomovestudentsintoadifferentsystem(fromprivatetopublic,for
example,ortolower-costprivateoptions).Moreimportantly,however,athirdofallhouseholds(33%)expectedto
effectivelypauseeducationandwaitforin-persontuitiontorestart.
ThiscouldsetbackEcuador’srecentadvancesintermsofexpandingaccesstoeducation,whichhaveswelledthe
ranksofthehigher-skilled,university-educatedsegmentofthepopulation.Thesedetrimentaleffectsoneducation,
whicharealsoevidentelsewhereinLatinAmerica,canbeassumedtobeespeciallygraveforhouseholdswhere
studentsconstitutethefirstgenerationtotakeuphighereducation.Aswithincreasesinunpaidlabour,educational
effectsaremoresevereinhouseholdsheadedbywomen.
LSE Latin America and Caribbean Blog: Ecuador’s mishandled COVID-19 health crisis has also had serious economic, educational, and emotional impacts Page 2 of 6
Date originally posted: 2020-11-18
Permalink: https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/latamcaribbean/2020/11/18/ecuadors-mishandled-covid-19-health-crisis-has-also-had-serious-economic-educational-and-emotional-
impacts/
Blog homepage: https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/latamcaribbean/
Source:COVID-19UCEProject
InformationandEcuador’sofficialresponse
Accesstoinformationisanothermajorproblem.While70%ofEcuadorianhouseholdsgettheirinformationfrom
nationalradio,television,andnewspapers,only20.8%ofhouseholdsbelievethatthesesourcesaretrustworthy.
Withoutaccesstoreliableinformation,only39%ofthepopulationknowswhyrestrictionswereimposed,whereas
just23%knowwhatthebasicreproductionnumber(orRnumber)is.
Giventhewidespreadlackofabasicunderstandingofboththepandemicandthestate’sresponse,thepublic’s
lackofenthusiasmincomplyingwithsocialrestrictionsishardlysurprising.Thislackofknowledgeisalsostrongly
correlatedwithlowlevelsoftrustinthegovernment’smanagementofthecrisis,with82%ofhouseholds
consideringtheMorenoadministration’sresponsetohavebeenbadorverybad.
LSE Latin America and Caribbean Blog: Ecuador’s mishandled COVID-19 health crisis has also had serious economic, educational, and emotional impacts Page 3 of 6
Date originally posted: 2020-11-18
Permalink: https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/latamcaribbean/2020/11/18/ecuadors-mishandled-covid-19-health-crisis-has-also-had-serious-economic-educational-and-emotional-
impacts/
Blog homepage: https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/latamcaribbean/
Source:COVID-19UCEProject
EmotionalresponsestoCOVID-19inEcuador
Thedataalsoshowsthatthecurrentsituationcannotbeseensimplyasacollectiveatmosphereoffear,asmany
otheremotionsarepresent.Predominantamongstthemissadness,largelystemmingfromthelossofprevious
routinesand“normality”.AlthoughEcuadoralsolacksdataonmentalhealthimpacts,recentreportsdoshowan
increaseinsuicideratesoverthelastfewmonths.
Thisclimateofprevailingfearandsadnessmayalsohaveledthegovernmenttoseethisasanopportunemoment
topassstructuraladjustmentpoliciesandpushforprivatisationofpublicassets.
LSE Latin America and Caribbean Blog: Ecuador’s mishandled COVID-19 health crisis has also had serious economic, educational, and emotional impacts Page 4 of 6
Date originally posted: 2020-11-18
Permalink: https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/latamcaribbean/2020/11/18/ecuadors-mishandled-covid-19-health-crisis-has-also-had-serious-economic-educational-and-emotional-
impacts/
Blog homepage: https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/latamcaribbean/
Source:COVID-19UCEProject
COVID-19communicationinEcuador
Ecuador’sattemptstodealwiththeCOVID-19pandemichavebeenlesseffectivethanthoseofmostother
countriesintheregion.Thismayrelatetothestate’sfailuretoprovidetestingandextendmedicalcareintheearly
stages,butthiswascompoundedbyafailuretomitigatethesocialandeconomicimpactsbothofthepandemic
andofthemeasurestakeninresponsetoit.
Thecountry’slargestcity,Guayaquil,becameanearlysymbolofthiskindoffailureallovertheworld,withbodies
lyinginthestreets,poorcommunicationaboutthevirusandtheresponsetoit,andheavy-handedpoliceviolence
againstrule-breakers.Yeteightmonthslater,boththehealthsystemitselfandthedata-gatheringprocessesfor
casesanddeathsremainlargelyunchanged.
Thelackofclearinformationalsopersists,anditisconditionedbymediaconsumption,byeducation,andbyage.In
theshortrun,thisneedstobeaddressedbystateactorswhohaveaccesstothemostrelevantinformation,butso
farthegovernmenthasutiliseditsprivilegedpositiontoprovidepost-hocjustifications,last-minuteupdates,and
evenmisinformation.Inthelongrun,thecountrywouldbenefitfromamorediversemassmedialandscapethatcan
holdthegovernmenttocloseraccount,enablingthegeneralpublictobecomebetterinformedandmoreengaged.
Notes:
•TheviewsexpressedhereareoftheauthorsratherthantheCentreortheLSE
•Formoreinformationonthisstudy(inSpanish),visitwww.covid19uce.com
•PleasereadourCommentsPolicybeforecommenting
LSE Latin America and Caribbean Blog: Ecuador’s mishandled COVID-19 health crisis has also had serious economic, educational, and emotional impacts Page 5 of 6
Date originally posted: 2020-11-18
Permalink: https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/latamcaribbean/2020/11/18/ecuadors-mishandled-covid-19-health-crisis-has-also-had-serious-economic-educational-and-emotional-
impacts/
Blog homepage: https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/latamcaribbean/
LSE Latin America and Caribbean Blog: Ecuador’s mishandled COVID-19 health crisis has also had serious economic, educational, and emotional impacts Page 6 of 6
Date originally posted: 2020-11-18
Permalink: https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/latamcaribbean/2020/11/18/ecuadors-mishandled-covid-19-health-crisis-has-also-had-serious-economic-educational-and-emotional-
impacts/
Blog homepage: https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/latamcaribbean/
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