However, with over 40% of its population lacking basic amenities, it is a city of huge economic divisions.
Segregation and criminality persist in a divided society
Esmeraldas has 150,000 inhabitants, a large proportion of whom are Afro-Ecuadorian. Many of their ancestors arrived as slaves and there is still great segregation in society. Afro-Ecuadorians rarely complete higher education or enjoy positions of power in the country.
Being close to Colombia, the town is part of the drugs corridor north to the US. Children from poor families see easy money in the narcotics industry, and are frequently drawn to criminality as an escape route from poverty.
Huge deprivation and limited social mobility
Ecuador is fighting its way out of poverty as a nation, but there are still huge divisions in society. Around 40% of the population has no access to clean drinking water, around 50% has no access to sanitation and over half the population cannot meet their families' basic needs – even food is scarce for many.
Ecuadorian society has left a 'glass ceiling' in place for the very poor. People from slums have far fewer opportunities to break out of the cycle of poverty. Many children cannot complete education as they are working to support the family.
How we help in Esmeraldas
SOS Children's Villages began its work in Esmeraldas in 1979, building our Children's Village and working for the poorest communities. Our social centre helps families remain together so that children can stay under parental care.
Our childminding service allows working parents to earn a living while their children are in safe hands. Daycare for babies and a medical centre are open to the whole community.
Some children cannot live with their parents, and our SOS families care for over 108 children in a nurturing family environment. Children are raised by their SOS mother and attend school in the community, forming bonds and networks that will serve them for life.
As children mature into young adults, they are invited to join our SOS youth programme. They stay in one of our houses in urban Esmeraldas, where they are supported while attending secondary education or vocational training. As they face the important decisions of early adulthood, they receive the guidance of our qualified youth counsellors.
We give childrent the help they need to enjoy a healthy, happy upbringing and the best of opportunities for lifelong success. Please help a child by sponsoring with SOS Children's Villages.