United States-Northern Triangle Enhanced Engagement Act
On July 15, 2019, the United States House of Representatives unanimously passed the United States-Northern Triangle Enhanced Engagement Act. The bill, announced by New York Representative Eliot L. Engel and Texas Representative Michael McCaul, seeks to provide greater safety and security for the Northern Triangle countries. The highest volume of immigrants from South America come from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. It is the hope of the United States Congress that increasing aid and promoting a stronger economy and sense of security in these nations will address the root causes of the current migration crisis. This bipartisan legislation outlines several ways the United States may assist the Northern Triangle nations.

Details About The Bill

Firstly, the bill details a five-year program which focuses on economic development, the strengthening of democratic institutions and anti-corruption efforts. Because the insecurity of these countries’ economies is driving so many to seek refuge in foreign nations, enhancing market-based internal solutions for Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala is a priority of this plan. Furthermore, it will implement institutions and programs that will allow these places to remain resilient in the wake of frequent natural disasters.

In order to support the integrity of the democratic institutions of the Northern Triangle, this bill intends to provide support to ensure free, fair elections and the continuation of an independent media. This measure is to prevent the spread of political propaganda and to make the democratic process accessible to all.

This bill includes many measures to support and fund anti-corruption efforts, which is so important when so many migrants from these countries are leaving to escape the prevalent gang violence. It provides support for such efforts as faith-based organizations for at-risk youth. Many young people have no choice but to engage in violent gang activities in order to protect themselves or their families.

Funding From The United States

The United States-Northern Triangle Enhanced Engagement Act is allotting $577 million dollars in monetary aid to these three countries for the 2020 fiscal year but includes strong conditions as to how the countries must use the funding.

The bill also includes measures to protect the safety of not only those native to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador but also the many American people who have concerns regarding immigration into the United States. The act calls for visa bans and asset freezes for corrupt individuals in an effort to halt some of the corruption in government and drug trafficking which are making these nations unsafe.

This bipartisan legislation will also provide increased support for development efforts in southern Mexico. The hope is that there will be more peaceful relations between Mexico and the Northern Triangle nations to diminish some of the reasons for the mass exodus from these countries.

Lastly, Congress has mandated that the State Department and USAID provide reports regarding the root causes of migration in the Northern Triangle countries after the implementation of the United States’ aid. The bill mentions some of the root causes including drug trafficking, human trafficking, extortion, corruption, gender-based violence, gang activities and the forcible recruitment of children into gang activities. These reports will allow Congress to determine how aid from the United States and the implementation of social services has altered the social and political climate of the Northern Triangle.

A Promising Victory

With so much ever-heightening concern regarding the immigration crisis, the unanimous, bipartisan passing of the United States-Northern Triangle Enhanced Engagement Act, which the Borgen Project supports, is a victory for the current state of poverty amongst immigrants. If this bill officially becomes law, it is the hope of Congress that the United States’ assistance and aid to the Northern Triangle countries will target the many causes of immigration and allow people to remain in their homes with a sense of security.

– Gina Beviglia
Photo: Flickr

Education in Central AmericaMany Central Americans are attempting to migrate to the U.S., motivated by the prospect of finding a better life. An understanding of current conditions in Central America is key to understanding the reasons behind migration. Education is a vital component of any region. These 10 facts provide information about this vital component, giving readers a glimpse at education in Central America.

10 Facts about Education in Central America

  1. Many teens and young adults are not in school – Currently, Guatemala’s primary-school-aged population is almost fully enrolled in school. But secondary-school enrollment is not as common. About 2 million Guatemalans aged 15-24 are not in school. In 2017, 60,573 Salvadoran adolescents were not in school. In the same year, 192,262 Honduran adolescents were also not in school. Additionally, unemployment rates are high for this age group. Children in rural Guatemala are also significantly less likely to remain in school than their urban peers.
  2. There is low gender disparity – In 2017,  the number of Guatemalan adolescents enrolled in secondary school was 47.2 percent. Of these students, 47.1 percent of female adolescents were enrolled, while 47.2 percent of boys were enrolled. In 2016, 84.9 percent of girls were able to transition from primary school to secondary school. Additionally, 94.2 percent of boys were able to make the transition. Overall, the disparities between male and female enrollment were not large, indicating a positive trend in regard to education in Central America. Typically, gender disparities in education are higher in low-income countries.
  3. There are low completion and enrollment rates in secondary education – Only about half of Salvadoran children attend secondary school. Even fewer go on to graduate from secondary school. Roughly 300,000 Salvadorans between the ages of 15 to 24 are unemployed and not enrolled in school. High rates of poverty, food insecurity and violence prevent Salvadoran youth from accessing the education and vocational training that they need.
  4. Girls are more likely to complete primary school – On average, Salvadoran children spent about 11 and a half years in school. Girls were less likely to repeat grades and more likely to finish primary school. Boys were slightly more likely to transition from primary school to secondary school, with 91.72 percent of girls and 92.44 percent of boys making the transition.
  5. The Education Law seeks to improve the education system – In 2012, the Honduran government passed the Education Law as part of a major effort to reform its education system. The Education Law redefined “basic education” to extend to grades six through nine. It required preschool attendance and introduced a new system for hiring and monitoring teachers. The Education Law emphasized cooperation with rural populations in need of better schools.
  6. The average amount of schooling is ten years – On average, Honduran children spent about 10 years in school as of 2015. Girls spent an average of 10.66 years in school, while boys spent an average of 9.8 years in school.
  7. Enrollment rates are increasing – From 1999 to 2009, preschool enrollment increased in both Honduras and El Salvador. During the same period, primary school enrollment increased in Guatemala and El Salvador. The first decade of the 21st century saw a significant decrease in child labor, with more and more children in school instead of working.
  8. Literacy is high – As of 2015, 81.5 percent of Guatemalans were literate. As of 2016, 89 percent of Hondurans were literate. As of 2015, 81.5 percent of Salvadorans were literate.
  9. U.S. Congress is now involved – In 2019, the U.S. House of Representatives introduced legislation to address education in Central America. The legislation has an emphasis on the Northern Triangle region of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. 70 percent of migrants from the Northern Triangle claims to have received no education beyond primary school. This is a factor that contributes to their desire to migrate with their families. The U.S is currently providing data to the Northern Triangle countries about their educational systems in order to show them the areas that are most in need of attention.
  10. Central Americans are migrating for better education – Current migration rates from Central America to the U.S. are fueled in part by parents’ desires to access better education for their children. Central American public schools are underfunded, and the private schools in the region are too expensive for many families. In some cases, Honduran parents spend over half of their income to send their children to private schools, a practice that is not financially sustainable. They see more opportunity and safety in American public schools.

Improving Education in Central America

Overall, poverty greatly hinders educational progress in Central America. Many adolescents, especially in the Northern Triangle, are not in school and are unprepared to enter the workforce. Fortunately, there are many positive signs as well, such as nearly universal primary school enrollment and low gender disparities in secondary school enrollment. Education drives migration. As a result, aid programs prioritizing education initiatives could decrease migration and improve the lives of countless children. Improving the quality of education in Central America is vital to the future of the region and its people.

– Emelie Fippin
Photo: Flickr

In March 2019, President Trump announced wanting to cut U.S. aid in Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. These three countries are known as the Northern Triangle of the U.S. government’s Plan of the Alliance for Prosperity (A4P) Initiative.

This is a U.S. strategy to address the security, governance and economic prosperity of these regions. The effectiveness of the A4P initiative and the numerous benefits it presents to both the Central American region and the United States has led to bipartisan support in the U.S., and to cease the aid to the northern triangle would be counterproductive to both the interests of the United States and Central America as a whole.

Since the 1980s, Central America has seen a decline in armed conflict and has become politically stable. Additionally, in the past decade has become a strong economic partner to the United States. While all of this implies significant progress in the region, the region remains stagnant with high crime rates and nearly half of the population currently lives in poverty.

Honduras: History, Plans, and Benefits

Honduras has received over $3 billion from USAID since 1961. The bulk of this aid impacts sustaining economic growth and establishing economic stability. Some efforts to obtaining these goals are increasing access to health services, expanding exports, improving education infrastructure and strengthening the nation’s democratic systems. In sum, these initiatives address threats to Hondura’s stability.

That being said, included are high crime and violence rates and widespread poverty and food insecurity.  Additionally, there is a presence of government corruption and ineffectiveness. According to the U.S. Department of State, Honduras reliance on foreign assistance, provided by the U.S. is crucial to there development and safety.

El Salvador: History, Plans, and Benefits

Over the past 50 years, USAID assistance in El Salvador has provided economic opportunity. It aids in improving educational and health care systems and supporting disaster relief and economic development.

Specifically, the bulk of assistance in health care is targeting infant and maternal mortality. With the assistance of USAID, the mortality rate in El Salvador has dropped from 191/1000 to 16/1000 between 1960 and  2008. Access to education and literacy rates have steadily increased over the years as well.

Again, with the assistance of USAID, two key organizations for analyzing the major problems facing El Salvador have been developed. These are the Salvadoran Foundation for Economic and Social Development (FUSADES) and the Business Foundation for Educational Development (FEPADE).

Guatemala: History, Plans, and Benefits

Guatemala is experiencing population growth and has become the most populated country in Central America. The Guatemalan government and USAID have been working together to strengthen security for citizens and stimulate economic growth. The efforts of USAID have had a significantly positive impact on addressing some of Guatemala’s security concerns.

For example, there has been an 18 percent decline in robberies, 50 percent decline in the illicit drug trade and a 50 percent decline in blackmail in communities. In order to stimulate economic growth, USAID has focused on agriculture, education, and health. This development has created 8,734 jobs and the country has seen an increase in coffee sales and implemented widespread reading programs.

Importance of Continued Support

The Northern Triangle’s future development and prosperity are heavily reliant on the continued support of the United States. Eliminating U.S. aid in Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala would be counterproductive to both the goals of the U.S. and the Northern Triangle. U.S. aid to El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala will be able to improve the overall quality of life of Central Americans.

– Randall Costa
Photo: Flickr

Fighting Corruption in the Northern TriangleThe Northern Triangle, consisting of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, is home to some of the highest levels of political and economic instability in the world. The nations of the Triangle (Or NTCA, Northern Triangle of Central America) are characterized by high rates of poverty and gang violence. Subsequently, this is exacerbated by rampant corruption, from local to national levels. This instability, along with the hazards of living in a poverty-stricken region, has led to an increase in the outflow of migrants from the Northern Triangle into the United States.

Nevertheless, things are getting better. With the Northern Triangle having received more international attention in recent years and immigration issues leading American political discourse, the underlying problems of the region are coming to light. Some U.S. and United Nations’ programs are successfully circumventing government channels to provide aid directly. However, other initiatives are attacking the problem of corruption at its source. Fighting corruption in the Northern Triangle requires a longterm method addressing the economic insolvency of these countries. Here are five ways the world is fighting corruption in the Northern Triangle.

5 Ways the World Is Fighting Corruption in the Northern Triangle

  1. Guatemala and the CICIG
    Guatemala hosts one of the most effective and successful anti-corruption NGOs in the region. The U.N.-backed International Commission Against Impunity (known as CICIG, per its Spanish initials) was implemented in the early 2000s to address the rampant corruption sprouting up in the wake of Guatemala’s civil war. The commissioner, Iván Velásquez, is a distinguished veteran of Colombia’s criminal justice system, where he worked to expose links between paramilitary groups and public officials—an identical background to the types of corrupt practices that burden Guatemala’s public sector.
  2. Identifying Criminal Ties to Government Officials in the NTCA
    In a list released in early May 2019, the U.S. Department of State has named over 50 senior government officials in the NTCA as guilty of corruption. This list includes officials in the orbit of all three countries’ presidents, some of whom are direct relatives. Representative Norma Torres (D-CA) noted that the release of the list was a step in the right direction, forward progress for the Trump administration recognizing the severity of corruption in the Northern Triangle. While many of the anti-corruption bodies operating in the NTCA need international backing to be as effective as possible, the State Department’s list indicates the U.S. has not completely voided its assumed role as stabilizer in the Western Hemisphere.
  3. Slow but Steady Progress in El Salvador
    Like the rest of the NTCA, El Salvador ranks low in global measures of corruption and impunity for government officials. However, the country’s most recent attorney general, Douglas Melendez, made it his mission to attack the systemic and embedded corruption permeating the government. While he was recently forced out of office by the national legislature, Melendez successfully prosecuted three former presidents and his own predecessor as attorney general. His failure to secure reappointment reflects both El Salvador’s closed-door (and thus inherently political) process of selecting an attorney general, and a backlash of the country’s political elite against his progress fighting corruption.
  4. Experts Discuss Corruption and Human Rights in the NTCA
    In May 2019, a panel of experts led by the nonprofit, Inter-American Dialogue, discussed the current initiatives fighting corruption in the Northern Triangle, and how they could benefit from expanding their focus to include human rights. Guatemala’s CICIG was brought up, as was the Mission to Support the Fight against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras (MACCIH). A major point of emphasis was the commonalities across all three countries, specifically the way in which corrupt kleptocratic networks are indirectly committing human rights violation by embezzling money earmarked for public services. The discussion lauded the work of CICIG and MACCIH in Guatemala and Honduras, respectively, and emphasized the need for a similar external agency in El Salvador.
  5. MACCIH Brings its Twelfth Major Case to Court in Honduras
    The Mission to Support the Fight Against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras (MACCIH) has been operating since April 2016, presumably inspired by the success of CICIG in Guatemala. Unlike CICIG, which is a U.N.-backed Commission, MACCIH is organized by the Organization of American States, an international charter that was created in the late 1800s. Through the OAS, MACCIH can share investigation data with other member states, which is particularly effective when investigating transnational organization—namely, drug cartels. In May 2019, MACCIH brought forward its twelfth integrated case, this time addressing a federal-level scheme to launder millions in cartel money.

Fighting corruption in the Northern Triangle is not linear. Pushback from political and business elites has been a significant problem both for MACCIH in Honduras and for El Salvador’s nascent anti-impunity work. This is to be expected of any anticorruption initiative, however, as it deals with the removal of power and resources from officials that abuse them. Flagging programs within the member states of the Northern Triangle only emphasize the need for robust foreign support, which the U.S. continues to provide.

Rob Sprankle
Photo: Flickr

U.S. foreign assistance to Central AmericaRecently, there has been an ongoing debate regarding U.S. foreign assistance to Central America with an emphasis on the countries in the Northern Triangle. The countries include Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. This topic has gained recent attention due to the ongoing border crisis at the U.S.-Mexico Border. Some government officials believe cutting aid will improve the crisis while others believe it will enhance the problem.

Foreign Aid

President Donald Trump announced in April 2019 that he would cut aid to countries in the Northern Triangle. President Trump believed that this decision was an appropriate response to limit the number of refugees from these countries who seek asylum in the U.S. He used this tactic as a punishment directed at Central American governments for allowing record levels of displaced persons to migrate to the U.S. border.

On the other side of the debate, U.S. foreign assistance to Central America may actually be what is necessary to curb this problem. In Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador there are multiple factors that contribute to why people are leaving their homelands. People are seeking asylum in the U.S to escape crime, poverty, corruption and violence.

What Does U.S. Assistance Do in Central America?

The U.S. funds in the Northern Triangle assist a variety of programs. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) supports increasing security and economic development, ensuring human rights and working towards a more self-reliant population among other projects.

  • El Salvador: In El Salvador, the State Department and USAID projects aided 50 towns by integrating the police force with a community-level crime prevention plan. In these areas, homicide rates shrunk by an average of 61 percent from 2015 to 2017. The El Salvadorian government expanded its yearly revenue by $350 million with the help of a $5 million investment from the U.S. that helped to reform El Salvador’s tax system.
  • Guatemala: In Guatemala, USAID leveraged more than $7 million in private investment, which in turn, helped more than 230,000 children with nutritional support. In the agricultural sector, USAID helped promote the advancement of sales for rural farmers by 51 percent. This aid also helped to create 20,000 new agricultural jobs.
  • Honduras: USAID, in collaboration with Feed the Future, helped lift 89,000 people out of extreme poverty. They also convinced the Honduran government to invest $56 million into the program. USAID and the State Department also helped to drastically reduce homicide rates in dangerous neighborhoods. Through community policing and youth programs backed by the U.S., murder rates dropped by 78 percent between 2013 and 2016 in at-risk communities.

U.S. Strategy for Central America

The U.S. plan for Central America is a bipartisan, multi-year plan that promotes institutional improvements and sparks conversation about developmental challenges. There are three different facets to this strategy.

  1. Promoting prosperity: In the Northern Triangle, USAID projects helped to create nearly 30,000 jobs in 2017 and more than 18,000 in 2018. Furthermore, the U.S. helped facilitate more than $73 million in exports and domestic sales. U.S.-led projects also fostered comradery and interconnectivity between different countries, which led to the formation of new organizations. In May 2016, the Mexico and Central America Interconnection Commission was established. This organization will help to advance power market integration, which will decrease power costs in the territory and increase economic activity.
  2. Enhancing security: U.S. backing makes it easier for regional governments to stop illegal narcotics from reaching the U.S. In 2018, Honduras seized almost 45,000 kilograms of illegal narcotics. U.S. foreign assistance to Central America also helps countries outside of the Northern Triangle. With the help of the U.S., Costa Rica seized more than 35,000 kilograms of illegal narcotics. The enhanced security also got dangerous gang members off the streets. In September 2017, U.S. support helped coordinate an operation that led to the arrests of nearly 4,000 gang members in the U.S. and Northern Triangle countries.
  3. Improving Governance: The U.S. projects help support the improvement of tax collection and fiscal transparency in the countries in the Northern Triangle. This leads to improved effectiveness of public spending and helps professionalize the civil service. In Guatemala, this service limited the number of steps needed to submit a customs and tax complaint, which made it easier to prompt an investigation.

Many politicians believe that it would be a bad idea to cut funding to Central America. “We will work with our colleagues in Congress to do everything in our power to push back on the President’s misguided approach to Central America,” said House Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel (D-NY). Across the aisle, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) tweeted, “Reducing support to CentAm and closing the border with Mexico would be counterproductive.”

U.S. foreign assistance to Central America currently remains a controversial issue in the U.S. But, the statistics don’t lie. Foreign aid has helped the countries in the Northern Triangle. Cutting that aid will not slow the stream of immigrants trying to enter the U.S., but making improvements to the countries through continued aid might.

Nicholas Bartlett
Photo: Flickr

Gang violence in El SalvadorEl Salvador is known for being one of the most dangerous countries in the world with one of the highest homicide rates. Most of the violence in El Salvador comes from the presence of gangs and the harsh retaliation from law enforcement. Below are 10 facts about gangs in El Salvador and potential solutions to tackle the issue.

Top 10 Facts About Gangs in El Salvador

  1. There are two main rival gangs in El Salvador: MS-13 (Mara Salvatrucha) and 18th Street (Barrio 18). They have claimed unofficial territories in several regions in El Salvador and have been known to engage in several criminal activities including murder, rape and extortion. In 2017, there were a total of 3,954 homicides, 1,850 reported cases of rape and 1,414 reported cases of extortion, all linked to the gangs.
  2. As of 2018, El Salvador ranked 5 among countries with the highest homicide rates in the world. An estimated 60 percent of homicides are related to gang activity, and many are committed against women in addition to sexual and physical abuse. One woman dies every 24 hours solely based on their gender.
  3. An estimated 60,000 gang members are living in El Salvador, which is about 10 percent of the population. Gang members live among civilians and often attend the same schools, making other students more susceptible to gang threats. As high as  60 percent of schools in El Salvadoran are affected by Gang threats, which have led thousands of students to drop out. In 2015, approximately 39,000 students dropped out.
  4. Extortion is one of the most common crimes committed by gang members. The gangs in El Salvador obtain revenue by extorting it from civilians and local businesses. Gang members will often go as far as to execute individuals or their friends and family when their payment is overdue or insufficient. In 2015, one in every four Salvadorans has reported that they have been a victim of extortion. At least 80 percent of small businesses in El Salvador have claimed that they pay extortion fees to the gangs, forcing some to close or go bankrupt.
  5. Gangs often recruit unemployed or out-of-school youth. About one in four young men ranging from ages 15 to 29 aren’t employed or in school, making them more vulnerable to gang involvement. Most members claim to have joined a gang at 15 years old. These boys are frequently pressured into joining gangs either through the promise of security or the promise of social acclaim and power.
  6. The government has been brutally cracking down on gangs. In 2003, the government launched La Mano Dura, also known as Iron Fist, which is a government intervention policy that allows for the extrajudicial killings and mass incarceration of suspected gang members by law enforcement. This policy temporarily decreased crime rates by 14 percent in 2004 shortly after it was launched; however, rates spiked up in the years following until a recent drop in 2015.
  7. Many El Salvadorans seek the help of “coyotes” to take them to the U.S. border. “Coyotes” are essentially migrant smugglers who help people who are in danger and transport them north to the U.S. border to pursue safety and escape from gang violence. In 2018, 235,708 people migrated from El Salvador in hopes of escaping violence and conflict, and most migrated to the U.S. Early into 2019, the migration rates are still on the rise.
  8. There have been efforts towards a gang truce in the past. In 2012, MS-13 and Barrio 18 negotiated on a truce that resulted in a 53 percent decrease in homicide rates in the first 15 months. However, the truce did not persist under the 2014 administration because of the lack of government involvement in negotiations, and the homicide rates began to rise again. Nevertheless, this data exhibits that a gang truce is a viable solution towards reducing violence.
  9. Gang-related homicides have been on a decline since 2015. This is in part due to USAID projects including the Education for Children and Youth at Risk project, which prevents the Salvadoran youth from getting involved in gangs. The project has provided access to quality education for more than  370,000 middle school students in 750 schools and has provided support to 23,000 youth who are out of school so that they can return to classes. This project implements longer school days, interactive teaching methods, extracurricular activities and tutoring.
  10. There are local efforts to reduce gang violence in El Salvador. Creative is a nonprofit organization that employs young people who are at risk of getting involved with gangs. Creative has provided “more than 3,000 youth in 10 municipalities” with economic opportunities by partnering with businesses such as Microsoft to train them and provide them entry into the workforce. Creative also builds community-oriented infrastructure and offers counseling programs for teens.

These 10 facts about gangs in El Salvador demonstrate that violence has long been a major, cataclysmic issue. However, through local efforts to prevent youth involvement in gangs and rigid opposition against cutting foreign aid to Central America, El Salvador may see slow but steady improvements towards rebuilding their economy and reducing conflict.

Louise Macaraniag
Photo: Flickr

Fighting Global Poverty with Affordable HousingA home serves as protection from the weather. It is the place from which individuals, families and communities grow. Sometimes it is the only four walls where people can let down their guards and be themselves. It is where they can afford to dream. Yet, 1.6 billion people across the globe cannot afford a safe place to live. They may have some semblance of a house, but they do not have a home. Without adequate, affordable housing, global poverty projects can only go so far. Here are five incredible organizations fighting global poverty with affordable housing, from the ground up.

5 Organizations Providing Affordable Housing in Vulnerable Areas

  1. New Story: A Home in 24 Hours
    New Story is a San Francisco-based nonprofit determined to end global homelessness. Since 2015, the organization has helped build 2,200 homes across Latin America. But for New Story, this wasn’t fast enough. The nonprofit partnered with ICON, a construction technology company. This partnership created a 3-D home printer that can build a house in 24 hours for roughly $4,000. For 80 percent of Salvadorans who lack adequate housing and are extremely vulnerable to earthquakes and flooding, this technology could transform their lives. New Story and ICON plan to build the first printed community in El Salvador, bringing safe housing to over 400 individuals.
  2. CARE International: Rebuilding After Disaster
    In 2013, Typhoon Haiyan killed approximately 6,430 Filipinos and destroyed one million homes. Depending on the year, millions of people worldwide become homeless due to natural disasters. Despite such destruction, the only choice is to rebuild. CARE, a humanitarian organization operating in 93 countries, stepped in after Typhoon Haiyan to help Filipinos reconstruct their lives. Over the course of three years, CARE helped over 15,500 homeless families rebuild their communities.
  3. EarthEnable: Safe Housing From the Ground Up
    Fighting global poverty with affordable housing requires a different approach in each country. Though people may have access to affordable housing (defined as less than 30 percent of one’s income), that housing may not even be safe. The nonprofit EarthEnable focuses on the adequate side of affordable housing, making sub-standard homes more standard. Three out of four Rwandans and one billion people worldwide live in homes with dirt floors that house parasites and disease. These are conditions which cause diarrhea, respiratory illness and other serious health conditions. EarthEnable employs Rwandans and teaches them how to replace dirt floors with earthen floors, which are waterproof, sanitary and cost 75 percent less than concrete flooring. So far, earthen floors have been installed in 2,300 homes in Rwanda. This is yet another way that people are coming together and fighting global poverty with affordable housing.
  4. World Habitat: Advocating for Change
    World Habitat is an advocacy organization based in the U.K. charity that together global institutions, national governments, grassroots organizations and local communities to figure out solutions to affordable housing. Every year, the nonprofit hosts the World Habitat Awards, which highlight and celebrate innovative housing solutions. Additionally, the event gifts two winners with $10,000. It is imperative to be on the ground, building affordable houses and rebuilding after a disaster, but it is also necessary to raise awareness and foster housing collaboration across the globe. “There is no shortage of housing problems,” explains World Habitat founder Peter Elderfield. “What is needed are solutions.”
  5. TECHO: Cities that Benefit Everyone
    In 1997, TECHO was a group of students committed to eradicating poverty in Chilean slums. Over 20 years later, TECHO has mobilized over one million volunteers. In fact, TECHO has built 115,000 houses across Latin America. According to U.N.-Habitat estimates, 80 percent of Latin Americans live in cities Of that population, 104 million live in informal settlements or slums. TECHO’s youth-led, community-based approach has been extremely effective. The nonprofit works with individual communities to address their specific needs, whether it be better access to basic services, safe and adequate housing, land ownership support or all of the above.

Making Access to Affordable Housing a Human Right

Fighting global poverty with affordable housing requires solutions at all levels, from local communities to humanitarian organizations and national governments. These five organizations illustrate that adequate, affordable housing is at the crux of global poverty issues. Not only must affordable housing become a priority, but it must also be a basic human right.

– Kate McIntosh
Photo: Flickr

Fleeing El SalvatorPoverty, political instability, corruption and gang violence force many to uproot their families and flee their homes in El Salvador. The number of asylum seekers fleeing their country has increased dramatically since the 1980s. Below are eight facts about why so many are fleeing El Salvador and what/who can aid in this humanitarian crisis.

8 Facts about Fleeing El Salvador

  1. El Salvador has one of the lowest economic growth rates in Central America. While rates of poverty have slowly been decreasing in recent years, the high rates of crime and violence create challenges for a growing economy. According to the World Bank, crime and violence make doing business expensive, have negative impacts on investment decisions and also hinder the creation of jobs.
  2. Coffee rust intensifies the threat of poverty. Hemileia vastatrix, also known as “coffee rust”, is a fungus that many Salvadoran coffee farmers fear. This fungus can greatly decrease the amount of mature (sellable) coffee beans in a harvest. With coffee representing 7.5 percent of El Salvador’s exports and sustaining 650,000 jobs, “coffee rust” greatly threatens income and stability of many families.
  3. The threat of climate change also aggravates the cycle of poverty. More than one-third of Salvadorans live in rural areas and depend on agriculture. However, environmental disasters such as floods, droughts and volcanoes combined with changes in climate threaten harvests and income. Within the next few decades, increasing temperatures pose the possibility of declining crop yields by up to 30 percent. Thus, this creates even more worry for Salvadorans whose lives depend on the quality of their harvests.
  4. Uprisings, wars and extreme gang violence contribute to political instability. In 1932, the Salvadoran government massacred approximately 30,000 peasants. From 1979 to 1992, the Civil War (and the Salvadoran army) left another 30,000 dead. Today, gangs contribute to high levels of extortion and hinder an already weak economy. High trends of violence and corruption contribute to reduced trust in government. Furthermore, the government does not have institutions strong enough and prepared to combat rampant gang violence.
  5. Many flee El Salvador due to direct threats of gang violence. In a country with a total population just over 6 million, it’s estimated that there are approximately 60,000 gang members in El Salvador. That’s one gang member out of every 100 people. Between 2014 and 2017 alone, violent gangs are responsible for the deaths of nearly 20,000 Salvadorans. In a country with one of the highest homicide rates in the world, it make sense that there have been waves of migrants fleeing El Salvador for decades.
  6. Gangs particularly render women and children vulnerable. El Salvador has one of the highest rates of violent deaths of women in the world. More than 25 percent of Salvadoran women report intimate partner violence. Additionally, criminal gangs routinely target girls and women and force them into relationships with gang members or force them into sexual slavery. Some women will try to stay in their homes with their children, not even leaving for school or work in an effort to be safe from the violence.
  7. Save the Children is active in El Salvador. This nonprofit organization supports families by providing means of income for families. In addition, the organization is improving food security and providing health education and care that can deter preventable deaths for mothers and children.
  8. For years, the US gave foreign assistance to El Salvador. Claudia Ivette Canjura de Centeno, the Salvadoran Ambassador to the US, recently said in an interview that US foreign assistance funds to El Salvador are distributed among programs promoting safety, youth empowerment and security. This is done through creating jobs and opportunities and developing spaces of recreation. However, President Trump threatens to suspend economic aid to El Salvador. This will have a huge impact on the progress El Salvador has experienced.

You can do something to make an impact. Call and email your Congressional representatives. Encourage them to oppose cuts to foreign assistance to Central America. People have been fleeing El Salvador with their families and will continue to do so until they no longer feel the threats of poverty, political instability, corruption and gang violence.

El Salvador has a deep history of violence and corruption that contribute to the present situation where many are fleeing their country. For many, the grueling process of migrating and trying to start a new life is too challenging to try. Despite the challenges of that process, it might provide safety, security and opportunities. This outweighs trying to feed one’s family under constant threats of violence and governmental instability. While organizations like Save the Children provides essential aid to Salvadoran communities, addressing deep, systemic issues is what is going to create sustainable security. Please call your representatives and urge them to oppose the suspension of foreign assistance to Central America.

– Keeley Griego
Photo: Flickr

El SalvadorComing in at 114 out of all countries, El Salvador has a relatively high life expectancy rate for countries within the region. El Salvador is a smaller country situated in Central America known for both its beaches and mountainous regions. With a population of 6,187, 271 people, 32 percent of Salvadorians live below the poverty line. Below are the top 10 facts about life expectancy in El Salvador.

The Top 10 Facts About Life Expectancy in El Salvador

  1. As of 2018, the life expectancy for people living in El Salvador is 75 years. On average, women in El Salvador live longer than men with a life expectancy of 78.6 years. Men have an average life expectancy of 71.8 years. This is on par with the life expectancies of the different countries in Central America
  2. Gang violence has been a prevalent issue in El Salvador and is contributing to a lower life expectancy. In 2015, there were 103 homicides per 100,000 El Salvadorians. That same year, high rates of deadly attacks on women reached 1,062. Homicides, drug trafficking and the use of firearms are all directly related to conflict amongst El Salvador’s gangs.
  3. Since 1960, there has been an increased focus on the healthcare system in El Salvador, which has increased life expectancy by 23 years. As of 2014, El Salvador has spent about 6.9 percent of its gross domestic product and 17 percent of its overall public expenditure on healthcare. The Ministry of Health is the main regulator and care provider of the health system in El Salvador. The Salvadorian Social Security Institute (ISSS) provides the second highest number of care facilities in El Salvador, organizing its services into four regions.
  4. El Salvador has recognized the importance of having trained physicians in order to increase the life expectancy for its citizens. There are 11 institutions of higher education in El Salvador that are working to train health personnel in order to provide a higher quality of care to El Salvadorians and to increase the doctor-patient ratio. From 2010 to 2015, the number of physicians per 1,000 people went from 1.6 to 1.95.
  5. The World Food Programme (WFP) is working in El Salvador to increase food security, which would improve life expectancy. Its strategic outcomes include ensuring nutrition-sensitive social protection for vulnerable households, increasing sustainable production for smallholder farm, determining and increasing resilience to climate change for vulnerable communities, increasing food access for people affected by disasters to food security and strengthening the national and subnational control over nutritional resources. This plan will be enacted by 2021.
  6. As of 2017, 25,000 people in El Salvador were living with HIV/AIDS, which is 0.6 percent of the overall population in the country. Organizations like UNAIDS are working to increase education on HIV/AIDS and to provide more materials for prevention. El Salvador was one of three countries to receive a grant for $26.9 million from the Global Fund to improve access to HIV-related services and to deliver treatments. Currently, 3,000 people are receiving services from prevention clinics set up in El Salvador.
  7. There is a high risk of having a major infectious disease in El Salvador, including a high risk for food or waterborne diseases. Healthcare reform brought attention to a need for vaccinations. In 1990, immunization rates were at 76 percent, but as of 2016, that number had increased to 93 percent. The improvement in immunization rates has had a positive impact on increasing life expectancy in El Salvador.
  8. Sanitation facilities are a contributor to widespread diseases in El Salvador. Rural areas tend to have less access to improved sanitation. Sanitation services in El Salvador have been made accessible to 71 percent of the population, leaving 13 percent of urban populations and 16 percent of rural populations underserved. The National Organisation of Water and Sewer Works (ANDA) is working to ensure coordination between all ministries and government agencies to provide focus on sanitation efforts in El Salvador.
  9. El Salvador is vulnerable to many natural disasters such as earthquakes, volcanoes and flooding. From 2005 to 2013, natural disasters have displaced around 20,913 people and taken the lives of 56 people. Factors that increase life expectancy and quality of life such as access to water, sanitation and education are negatively impacted by displacement. Habitat for Humanity is working in El Salvador to rebuild and increase the resilience of homes in El Salvador. Since 1992, Habitat for Humanity has been able to help around 167,000 Salvadorians by providing housing security.
  10. Currently, the World Bank has committed $290 million in El Salvador. These funds contribute to the improvement of five different projects that protect and enhance vulnerable groups. The World Bank has allocated $50 million towards the Disaster Risk Management Program specifically for natural disasters. This funding has been able to reduce natural disaster displacement, decrease homicide rates, improve the health care system and the overall quality of life in El Salvador.

High vulnerability to natural disasters, a lack of clean water and sanitation sources, gang violence and disparities within the healthcare system have contributed to lower life expectancy rates in El Salvador. However, these 10 facts about life expectancy rates in El Salvador show that attention is now being given to places where intervention can improve living conditions for El Salvadorians. Due to these efforts, the life expectancy rate in El Salvador has been growing at an average annual rate of 0.33 percent.

Claire Bryan
Photo: Flickr

Femicide in El SalvadorEl Salvador is the smallest country in Central America with an estimated population of 6.2 million. However, this number is often fluctuating due to massive violence in the country. El Salvador has the world’s highest homicide rates and pervasive criminal gangs. One murder happens every two hours on average. In 2018, there were 3,340 documented murders and the country has an estimated murder rate of 51 per 100,000 inhabitants.

Women’s rights in the Central Americas and the Carribean have been slowly improving over the years. However, in El Salvador, women still lack basic rights and suffer from many violent crimes. With so many deaths, it comes as no surprise that El Salvador has the highest femicide rate in Latin America and the third highest in the world.

Femicide in El Salvador: The Facts

Femicide is the gender-based killing of women because of their gender. It is the leading cause of premature death for women globally. Femicide in El Salvador is a serious issue as one woman is murdered every 19 hours. In 2019, 76 femicides already occurred in El Salvador. The country has the third-highest rate in the world for the violent deaths of women. In 2016, 524 women were killed, a majority of them under 30 years of age. Within the first two months of 2018, 72 women were murdered.

High Femicide Rates But Low Convictions

Violent death isn’t the only threat to these women. Over a time span of ten months in 2017, there were nearly 2,000 reported sexual assaults in El Salvador. Around 80 percent of these victims were 17-years-old or younger. Femicide in El Salvador is not only overlooked by the world but by the Salvadoran government as well. Between 2013 and 2016, the Salvadoran government opened 662 femicide cases. Only 5 percent reached a conviction. Only one in ten of the murder cases where a woman is a victim of femicide results in a conviction.

Gangs Present Another Threat

Most of the violence against women in El Salvador is committed by various gangs residing in the country. According to the Salvadoran government, around 10 percent of people are in gangs and these gangs often see women as easy targets.

Agnes Callamard, the United Nations’ special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, said in a CNN interview that women’s bodies are treated as “a territory for revenge and control.” Callamard explained that the gangs are male-dominated and girls and women are merely part of the territories they control.

Women’s trauma

Women in El Salvador who survive these brutal acts of physical and sexual abuse suffer from trauma and often have nowhere to turn for help. Many women even try to flee the country in an attempt to escape. However, those who are unsuccessful in their attempts risk being killed or tortured by their abusers back home for merely trying.

Thankfully, groups like the Organización De Mujeres Salvadoreñas Por La Paz (ORMUSA) work to end gender violence and femicide in El Salvador. ORMUSA believes that promoting equality by supporting the economic empowerment of women is the key to changing attitudes. ORMUSA even helped draft a law that came into effect in 2012 which puts femicide in the criminal category in El Salvador and establishing special provisions to protect women from gender-based violence.

With such high femicide rates, El Salvador remains the most dangerous country for women. Though groups and activists are trying to stop these violent acts, El Salvador still has a long way to go.

Madeline Oden
Photo: Wikimedia Commons