Ecuador is a country of great social, cultural and geographical diversity, with inequality and exclusion continuing to dominate social problems. The persistence of poverty and malnutrition disproportionally affect young children, women and indigenous populations despite being classified as a “lower middle income country". Ecuador ranks 89th globally in the 2013 Human Development Index (HDI 0.724). It is the fourth-smallest country in Latin America with 14.48 million people, of which 63 percent live in urban areas. In 2012 the Gini coefficient was 45 percent. The richest 10 percent of the population owned 35.9 percent of the total income, while the poorest 10 percent received only 1.43 percent.

Malnutrition in Ecuador has many faces: According to ENSANUT 2012 survey, 25.3 percent of children under five in Ecuador suffer from chronic malnutrition. In nine of the 24 provinces of Ecuador, the prevalence of chronic malnutrition for children under 5 ranges from 30 to more than 40 percent. These provinces have the highest ratio of indigenous population and high levels of extreme poverty. Nationwide, 26 percent of children under five suffer from anemia. This figure goes up to 38.3% in children under three, and to 62% in children under one year of age. Gender violence affects six out of ten women.

Ecuador continues to be affected by the negative spillover effects of the prolonged armed conflict in Colombia, putting pressure on social services, programs and cohesion.  The country is especially prone to natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes, droughts and volcanic eruptions. During the last decade Ecuador suffered losses of around $US12.1 billion from natural events alone. The effects of climate change are making their mark as well, with the retreat of glaciers and the decrease in water availability and food and nutrition security.