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Isabela island, located in the Galapagos archipelago 1,000 km away from mainland Ecuador, faces unique water and food security challenges. Understanding how residents experience food and water insecurity is a necessary first step to inform future public health interventions.


  • How is food and water insecurity experienced on Isabela island?
  • How does food and water insecurity contribute to the complex health landscape in the Galapagos?

People: Donald L Fejfar, Elijah Watson, Kishan Patel, Nicholas Badhwa, Khristopher Nicholas, Amanda Thompson, Margaret Bentley, and Jill Stewart

On the Galapagos Islands, outdated water and sanitation systems along with inadequate water quantity have led to poor water quality with residents often resorting to imported water and external cistern storage. Further, residents primarily rely on food shipped from mainland Ecuador, much of which is processed and can contribute to poor health. This study aims to assess the state of water and food quality, security, and accessibility on Isabela island, Galapagos, in order to foster an understanding from which further research and interventions can be based.

For this project, the research team of four UNC-CH undergraduate students spent 6 weeks on Isabela working with the municipality to examine food and water quality and access. The team tested household and municipal water supplies for bacteria and surveyed households and local stores about the food environment on the island. Water and food security were assessed using a validated household-level water security survey and the Latin American and Caribbean Household Food Security Scale, both of which are validated for use on San Cristobal island, to classify households into water and food security categories. The team also administered food frequency questionnaires to analyze household diet quality. Macro- and micronutrient intakes were assessed, with a particular focus on the consumption of dietary fat and fiber, nutrients linked to cardiometabolic disease risk. Health outcomes will be assessed using anthropometry. This research will contribute to a better understanding of the dual burden of cardiometabolic and infectious disease on the Galapagos islands.

This project was funded by the UNC-CH Undergraduate Research Consultant Team Award.