11 March 2008United Nations agencies are rushing food, medicines and other assistance to Ecuador to assist tens of thousands of people in need after heavy rains have inundated much of the South American country. Some 3,000 families, or around 13,000 people, have been forced from their homes by the two weeks of flooding, some of the country’s worst in two decades, and are residing in over 300 shelters. Heavy rains have impacted 13 of the country’s 24 provinces, with approximately 60,000 people being affected by the rains in total. As of late last month, nearly two dozen people have lost their lives, including several children, and some $82 million worth of crops have been lost. The UN World Food Programme (WFP) has distributed 135 metric tons of high-energy biscuits and 10,000 food rations. Additionally the agency is launching a food-for-work programme in May for a three-month period. For its part, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) is continuing efforts to bolster early recovery efforts and is also organizing a three-day training event on risk identification and emergency management. The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), through 500 young volunteers, is distributing some 10,000 information leaflets from the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) on the prevention of sexual violence and HIV/AIDS. Meanwhile, the UN World Heath Organization is helping the national health ministry with the provision of vaccinations in Ecuador’s coastal region.