U.N. project provides loans for sex workers in Ecuador

A United Nations-supported microcredit project is helping vulnerable refugees in Ecuador, especially women who have turned to sex work to support themselves and their families, break out of poverty.

Ecuador is home to the largest number of refugees in Latin America, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. Of the more than 53,000 recognized refugees, 73 per cent are women and children.

Over the past year, the high commissioner’s office has been working with partner organizations to set up programs and provide financial services to help needy Colombian refugees and their hosts in Ecuador, including supporting income-generating projects.

Such projects “benefit Colombian and Ecuadorean women, especially those who are often subject to discrimination, in order to give them a different alternative,” said Luis Varese, the refugee office representative in Ecuador.

Among the most vulnerable are refugee women who turn to sex work, either because they have limited job opportunities or need a second income to support their families, said the U.N..

Studies done by U.N. agencies, non-governmental organizations and the Ecuadorean health ministry have found that nearly half of the Colombian refugee women who are sex workers in Ecuador’s northern border area were not in the trade back in their homeland.

Last year 19 women each received an average credit of $300, and so far there has been no delinquency in the loans.

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