Disability and Poverty in El Salvador
In El Salvador, poverty is the main impediment to child education. With a population of 6.4 million, the poverty rate decreased from 39% to 29% in 2017. However, the COVID-19 pandemic will likely negatively affect poverty reduction and economic growth in 2020, according to The World Bank. Disability and poverty in El Salvador are an obstacle for many children living in rural areas.

The fight against poverty and the current economic crisis accentuated the already existing lack of education for the deaf population. For this reason, Fatima Project swims against the current with the hope of instructing disabled children one by one. The project intends to create an educational system that teaches deaf children primary and secondary education so that they can access university and participate in it in the same way as their classmates.

The Situation

In El Salvador, there are four public schools for deaf people, but only one of them offers education from kindergarten to high school. On the other hand, few private schools provide the option for a deaf person to attend classes with an interpreter, who translates Spanish into a gestural language. In this case, the student’s parents fund the interpreter’s work. Moreover, only the University of El Salvador can offer education for the deaf and fully pay for the interpreter’s expenses. Still, the statistics are discouraging: Between 2010 and 2018, only eight deaf people have graduated from college. In a deaf population of 88,000 people, what is the main obstacle and –most important- the ultimate solution?

From a Garage to NGO

In May 2017, Fátima Abarca -a deaf-mute teacher- established a small kindergarten education school for deaf children with help of the Forja Foundation, an NGO that provided the facilities. She received one classroom in Forja’s facilities in San Salvador, but that was enough to help 10 children from 3 to 7 years old. Abarca told The Borgen Project that “Becoming a teacher was a moral imperative that nourished from a deep conviction about the need to educate and guide children who like me, face hearing impairment.” The project began a few years before Fátima received a classroom when a group of parents approached her to ask for her help and she agreed to teach them in the only space available to her: the garage.

In rural areas of El Salvador, low-income families, who cannot afford education or transportation to public schools, often withdraw their children from school. In addition, some of those families have deaf children and do not speak sign language. Therefore, their children live in isolation. The latter triggered Fátima and her collaborators into action, knowing that those parents could not pay for the teacher’s services. Fundraising has kept the project going.

The project obtains funding from sponsors. For example, a donor will take on the responsibility of paying for one child’s tuition. Fátima uses the money that she has received to finance the project and pay for the teachers. Moreover, the Forja Foundation takes care of utility expenses. In addition, the NGO Gloria de Kriete awarded the project with $5,000 for the category of community development on 2018. However, Fatima needs more funding to expand the project.

The Children

“The first years of age are crucial for a human being’s education. That is where we lay the foundations of knowledge for intellectual and moral development,” said Fátima. Fátima dreams of establishing a school that provides the education necessary for children to access a public high school and understand –just as she did- that the disability should not be a limitation.

Fabricio Hernández, 12, is one of her students. He has a cleft lip and congenital disorders that affect his hearing. He lives with his mother and his maternal grandparents. His mother works at a bakery to support their living. “Fabricio is an intelligent, outgoing child with an extraordinary thirst to learn,” argued his teacher.

Like Fabricio, 5-year-old Angélica Martínez struggles to learn due to the added difficulty of Asperger’s syndrome. For this reason, Fátima provides her with specialized lessons. Angelica’s parents are deaf too, so she is under the care of her mother and grandmother.

Meanwhile, Alison Diaz, 12, struggles with deafness and autism. Her parents’ divorce affected her. “Despite the difficulties that surround my star student, she has made progress in her behavior and has learned a lot,” Fátima reaffirmed.

The Effects of the COVID-19 Crisis on the Project

The school closed during the pandemic. In addition, the funds decreased because no parents were able to pay for the education the school provided. Thus, the pandemic has significantly affected children experiencing disability and poverty in El Salvador. Many of them, confined at home, do not have access to the internet. However, Fatima has found other proactive strategies to reach them: she sends schedules to parents through their mobile devices and uploads the lessons to her YouTube channel, proving that she has not given up on her fight against disability and poverty in El Salvador.

The project is a young dream. Freshly settled three years ago, Fatima has made progress in educating children who are struggling with disability in the face of poverty. Fatima has given them the opportunity to educate themselves and expand their threshold of opportunities.

– Paola Arriaza Avilés
Photo: Flickr

updates on SDG Goal 3 in El Salvador
El Salvador is the smallest country in Central America, with a population of about 6.3 million people. Compared to every country around the globe participating in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals program, El Salvador ranks relatively high. The Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs, are 17 goals that the United Nations established in order to create a better world for citizens around the globe. All 17 goals interconnect to ensure that the goals fully account for all persons worldwide. The U.N. gives each country a numerical score out of 100 that evaluates how close it is to achieving all 17 SDGs. El Salvador has a score of 69.62 and ranks 77th out of 193 countries. Specifically, there have been many updates on SDG Goal 3 in El Salvador.

Goal 3 focuses on good health and well-being. This goal in El Salvador is increasingly important due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, the U.N. had been seeing great strides in improving the health and well-being of people worldwide. SDG Goal 3 primarily focuses on reducing maternal mortality rates, providing universal care and ending epidemics with high mortality rates. Here are four updates on SDG Goal 3 in El Salvador.

4 Updates on SDG Goal 3 in El Salvador

  1.  There is room for improvement. While El Salvador has made significant progress toward achieving Goal 3, the country has more to accomplish. Specifically, the number of deaths related to tuberculosis in El Salvador has increased to 70 people per 100,000. The number of traffic deaths has also increased to 22 people per 100,000 people. Meanwhile, the adolescent fertility rate, however, has slightly decreased to approximately 69 people per 100,000.
  2. The maternal mortality rate has decreased. The U.N. measures maternal mortality rates as the number of women aged 15-49 who die as a result of pregnancy complications. This statistic reached its peak in El Salvador in 2001, with 75 deaths per 100,000 live births. After 2001, this number decreased, reaching its lowest point in 2017, with 46 deaths per 100,000 live births. The decrease in the maternal mortality rate is most likely due to increased hospital coverage in El Salvador. The majority of newborn babies are now born in a hospital and are able to receive their first checkups. This brings SDG 3 in El Salvador closer to reality.
  3. New HIV infections have decreased. In the past, HIV rates were on the rise in El Salvador. Mothers would transmit the disease to their children, and there was a lack of sexual education, which resulted in the high transmission of HIV. With time, however, people have begun to normalize the topic of HIV and its dangers. Specifically, a woman named Angélica Méndez started a program in her community to start conversations about the dangers of HIV and how to prevent it. With programs like these all across El Salvador, HIV infection rates have dropped from a peak of 43,000 people in 2000 to 11,000 people in 2018.
  4. El Salvador has seen an increase in overall well-being. Annually, citizens of El Salvador rate their overall well-being on a scale of zero to 10, with zero being the worst possible life and 10 being the best possible life. The average well-being has fluctuated over the years but currently stands at 7.6. Previously, the average was at its lowest at 4.74 in 2011. The average well-being has most likely risen due to the increase in sex education and greater hospital accessibility.

The SDGs are an effective way of providing step-by-step approaches for different countries to provide the best health and safety for their citizens, and El Salvador is no exception. The country has been working consistently to improve the health and well-being of its citizens. Though there are some areas in need of improvement, these updates on SDG 3 in El Salvador make it clear why the country ranks relatively high in comparison to others. With time and further assistance, El Salvador can fully attain SDG Goal 3.

Alondra Belford
Photo: Flickr

Multinational Corporations in Developing Countries
Multinational corporations (MNCs) have a global presence, even in developing countries. There are over 80,000 companies that drive the 21st-century economy. For example, Coca-Cola sells its product in nearly every country and has established over 900 bottling facilities worldwide. MNCs have propelled the GDP of their parent countries, most notably the United States, Japan, China and Western Europe, but how do their international operations affect developing countries?

It is difficult to say whether multinational corporations in developing countries are decidedly ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ One must consider many perspectives before making that judgment. However, researchers have identified a variety of positive and negative impacts applicable to most MNCs.

Individual Wellbeing

Multinational corporations in developing countries employ millions of people, but the quality of these jobs is often low. When Coca-Cola instituted a bottling facility in El Salvador, its supply chain hired sugar cane harvesters. El Salvador needed this hiring surge, as its poverty rate is 25.70%. However, an Oxfam study discovered that many workers receive less than the minimum wage. Additionally, harvesters face physical risks (burns, lacerations, exhaustion). This is because their work entails cutting cane stalks with a machete in chemically treated agricultural fields.

Perhaps the most notorious examples of worker exploitation in developing countries are sweatshops. These facilities in MNC supply chains provide employment with long hours, low wages and unsafe working conditions. An estimated 250 million children work in sweatshops worldwide, working over 16 hours a day to provide products for the clothing and toy consumer base.

Some experts argue that sweatshops are helpful to local populations because they provide job opportunities that would otherwise not be there. This defense, the “Non Worseness claim,” essentially states that sweatshops are better than nothing and that even if there were regulations on improved wages and working conditions, the jobs would be outsourced to a place where those restrictions do not exist. Defenders of MNC sweatshops often cite this controversial idea.

Economics

At first glance, it may be easy to claim that MNCs are unequivocally good for developing countries’ economies. After all, they provide jobs that were not present before, even if they are dangerous and pay low wages. Additionally, MNCs bring in capital flow to developing countries by building factories, which require construction workers and surrounding infrastructure, thereby stimulating economic development in host countries.

However, beyond the short-term benefits, the economic value of multinational corporations in developing countries becomes rather hazy. Most of the profit produced by an MNC subsidiary in a developing country goes to the company’s parent country. In the case of El Salvador, most profits generated by cane harvesters return to Coca-Cola’s executives in the U.S.

When multinational countries flood the economic landscape of developing countries, small businesses and local entrepreneurs find it difficult to compete. Thus, host countries develop a kind of dependency where they cannot break off from the MNCs’ influence in fear of rising unemployment. They also cannot compete with MNCs because of their established production methods.

Solutions

The Human Rights Watch and other humanitarian nonprofits have called for supply chain transparency in MNCs, particularly clothing and footwear industries, to publicize and improve working conditions in sweatshops across the globe. These corporations would have to provide specifics about factories manufacturing their products beyond the general tag: “Made in China.”

Additionally, the social inequities surrounding MNCs appear to be a result of their intentions. Paying low wages, building factories with unsafe working conditions, and outsourcing production relate to a key goal of MNCs: the corporate mantra, “maximize shareholder value.”

But MNCs do not need to operate according to this objective. At the very least, maximizing profits is not the only objective that they can strive for. Many MNCs, such as Ben and Jerry’s and Patagonia, have altered their practices to become benefit corporations. This role includes adding the goal of benefiting the public good to their company mission. Through this method, MNCs have a chance to reverse social injustices by redirecting their profits into improving the social, environmental and economic processes in developing countries.

Christopher Orion Bresnahan
Photo: Flickr

Five Examples of Police Brutality InternationallyProtests in the United States are bringing light to a troubling issue which has taken lives for generations: police brutality. However, police brutality affects almost every country in the world. Wherever there is a police force, there is the potential for police brutality. Here are five examples that demonstrate police brutality internationally.

5 Examples of Police Brutality Internationally

  1. Kenya: Police officers in Kenya often accept bribes. Not only that, but police often accuse, imprison or even kill those who cannot offer a bribe. Police officers demanding bribes disproportionately affect poor Kenyans. Kenyans in poverty are often unable to pay police and can experience detainment without probable cause for an indefinite period of time. Additionally, police frequently get away with assaulting or murdering citizens without suffering legal repercussions themselves. On June 8, 2020, citizens took to the streets of Nairobi, Kenya, to protest the police brutality that police employed when enforcing curfews during the COVID-19-related lockdown.
  2. Hong Kong: During the protests for democracy in 2019, widespread human rights violations occurred at the hands of the Hong Kong police, largely without repercussions. The brutality included improper use of rubber bullets, which have a design so that police can fire them at the ground before they bounce and hit people. Also, there was a misuse of bean bag rounds, the physical beating of nonviolent protesters, misuse of tear gas and pepper spray and the use of water canons. In some cases, detained protesters experienced subjection to severe beatings that amounted to torture. As a result, there has been a call for an inquiry into the police’s use of violence from an impartial and independent source as opposed to an internal investigation.
  3. Philippines: Since 2016, the drug war that Philippine Director General Oscar Albayalde waged has resulted in thousands of deaths. The killers, including police and independent gangs of men on motorcycles reportedly affiliated with the police, have not experienced legal action. Law enforcement killed more than 12,000 people during the drug war, and Human Rights Watch has urged Albayabe to consider the rights of the population. Frequently, police executions of citizens result from drugs that police plant on citizens, compounding the injustice. Some have called the drug war in the Philippines a “war on the poor” because it discriminates against the urban poor. Robberies often follow police killings of the urban poor. By targeting vulnerable populations, crooked police are able to commit extrajudicial crimes.
  4. Pakistan: Police brutality also affects the people of Pakistan. A particularly unjust example of this is the death of Salahuddin Ayabi, a person with mental disabilities, who went into police custody for an armed robbery. The police severely tortured him and ended his life. In Pakistan, police have killed hundreds of detained people by means of torture. The police often produce false testimonies and plant evidence on people before detaining them and sometimes murdering them. The Punjabi government has proposed legislative reform. However, some argue that the problem is not the legislation itself but the lack of proper implementation to hold police accountable. Impoverished Pakistanis are a targeted demographic, experiencing subjection to extrajudicial killings, detainment and police torture.
  5. El Salvador: Between 2014 and 2018 in El Salvador, police killed at least 116 people. To put this in perspective, El Salvador’s population is 6.421 million, about three-fourths of New York City population. Raquel Caballero described these killings as “brutal assassinations” in an interview with Reuters. The brutal actions of the police seem to correlate to the gang violence which plagues El Salvador, as many victims are gang members. Of the 48 cases of extrajudicial murders committed by police, only 19 officers experienced prosection and only two received convictions. El Salvador’s murder rate is one of the highest in the world, but some argue that should not excuse police officers to act in such a brutal manner. Additionally, women from high-poverty areas suffer from police brutality as a result of scant reproductive rights. For instance, women who seek abortions, even for obstetric emergencies, often suffer prosecution.

The examination of police brutality internationally by groups like the U.N., Human Rights Watch or Amnesty International is crucial in maintaining awareness of the pervasiveness of this problem. Perhaps the organizations which prosecute guilty police officers worldwide will emerge victorious in their efforts. Police need to meet the same standards as the populations they serve.

Elise Ghitman
Photo: Flickr

food safety in el salvadorThe ability to have access to safe and nutritious food is essential to maintaining life and good health. Unsafe food contains harmful parasites, viruses and bacteria that can lead to more than 200 diseases, from diarrhea to forms of cancer. Approximately 600 million people become ill after consuming contaminated food each year, which results in 420,000 deaths and the loss of thirty-three million healthy life hours. Food safety and nutrition are linked to cycles of health. Unsafe food causes disease and malnutrition, especially with at-risk groups.

Education on Food Safety in El Salvador

Women in El Salvador are participating in an educational program supported by the World Health Organization that teaches safe hygiene practices and food safety. The WHO works in collaboration with El Salvador’s government and other United Nations partner organizations like the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), United Nations Development Program (UNDP), UNICEF, UNWomen, and the World Food Program (WFP). The program aims to address foodborne illnesses and poor nutrition by educating local women who then pass on their knowledge to other women in the community.

In preparation for the village workshops, there are two ‘train the trainers’ workshops held to train health promoters who can then go on to educate women in other villages. The women teach others how to host their own educational workshops. Women are chosen as leaders since they play a vital role in food preparation and safety.

Teaching Subsistence Farming

In El Salvador 1 in 10 people live on less than $2 U.S. a day, which makes it hard to buy food.  A large sector of the population lacks the proper education about nutrition needed to grow food themselves. This program provides women with education about farming, specifically focusing on five keys to growing safer fruits and vegetables.

  1. Practice good personal hygiene. Good hygiene begins in the home with a clean body, face, and clothes. People must maintain cleanliness to curb the spread of pathogens and prevent food contamination. A toilet or latrine must be used for proper sanitation.
  2. Protect fields from animal fecal contamination. In areas where animals live in close proximity to humans and fields, it is imperative to control the risk of exposure to fecal matter. Exposure to animal feces is correlated with diarrhea, soil-transmitted helminth infection, trachoma, environmental enteric dysfunction and growth faltering.
  3. Use treated fecal waste. Waste may be reused as a fertilizer for agriculture, gardening or horticultural, but must be safely handled, treated, stored and utilized.
  4. Evaluate and manage risks from irrigation water. Be aware of all risks of microbial contamination at all water sources and protect water from fecal matter.
  5. Keep harvest and storage equipment clean and dry. Wash harvest equipment with clean water and store away from animals and children. Remove all visible dirt and debris from all products.

Results

After participating in the program, the women involved began to change their lifestyles and safety habits. Women use mesh to protect fields from contamination from animals and can grow a wide variety of fruits and vegetables while practicing food safety. Foodborne illnesses decreased in households where safety measures were practiced. Families that utilized the five keys at home reduced their chances of getting diarrhea by 60% compared to families in communities where these hygiene and safety measures were not applied. Families that began to practice food safety also had a more diversified crop production that contributes to improved nutrition.

 

Many people in El Salvador live on less than $2 U.S. a day and education on nutrition needed to grow food independently is sometimes lacking. In order to address these issues, The WHO, and other organizations, partnered with El Salvador’s government to host workshops on food safety and hygiene practices. While food safety remains an important issue in El Salvador, the workshops positively impacted food safety in the country by decreasing foodborne illnesses in households that applied the safety measures.

– Anna Brewer
Photo: Flickr

 

gender equality in el salvadorIn a report by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, El Salvador is cited as having one of the top rates of violence in the region, with a disproportionate amount of violence aimed at women and girls. Since many girls begin working at a young age, they are vulnerable to abuse and are often forced to leave school to provide for their families. However, in recent years, organizations such as the Concertación de Mujeres Suchitotos and the Salvadoran Institute for the Advancement of Women have established a presence in fighting for gender equality in El Salvador, particularly the freedom from violence and economic equality.

Concertación de Mujeres Suchitotos

Established in 2008 in relation to the nonprofit organization Mary’s Pence, the Concertación de Mujeres Suchitotos works within the Salvadoran community to fight for gender equality, support women in pursuing financial independence and teach about sexual and reproductive rights. Now with over 300 members and 576 loans given to women in the community to begin their own small businesses, the organization boasts many successful women-owned businesses in agriculture, food service and the clothing industry.

In 2016, the Concertación de Mujeres Suchitotos held an assembly to share their growing knowledge of economic solidarity with other women. Along with members in El Salvador, women from Nicaragua and Honduras attended the event, creating a total of about 120 women. The event allowed attendees to discuss their business strategies with other women in similar business ventures and brainstorm ways to improve. By giving the women a space for discourse, the Concertación de Mujeres Suchitotos further empowered El Salvadoran women to connect with each other.

However, the women in El Salvador are still struggling with violence and freedom. Gangs threatened women who owned businesses, demanding money in exchange for leaving the women and their businesses alone. Teen pregnancy continues to run high, something this organization hopes to combat through open discussions about sexual and reproductive health. Through economic independence and transparent education, the Concertación de Mujeres Suchitotos is fighting for the rights of Salvadoran women.

Salvadoran Institute for the Advancement of Women

This agency was created to uphold the measures in the Domestic Violence Act and National Plan to Prevent and Deal with Domestic Violence, passed by the Salvadoran Secretariat of Social Inclusion in response to the high levels of domestic violence in the country. By recognizing domestic violence as a government issue, women suffering from violence in El Salvador were more likely to speak up and fight for their rights.

Like the Concertación de Mujeres Suchitotos, the agency implements programs to encourage women’s education in business along with protecting those suffering from domestic violence. Although the government recognizes the gender disparity in business and economics, inherent sexism in communities challenges the progress of women in El Salvador. For example, the government can implement a program encouraging women into intellectual work, but the men working there have a preexisting bias of prioritizing and hiring men for such positions.

However, progress is being made. The Salvadoran Institute for the Advancement of Women recently provided over 100 hygiene kits of feminine products and clothes to women who were struggling due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The mission of the agency is to support women in exercising their rights as citizens and bring the country closer to true gender equality; giving women the tools to be hygienic and safe is a start.

Seven in ten women in El Salvador are affected by some form of violence throughout their lives. The Concertación de Mujeres Suchitotos and the Salvadoran Institute for the Advancement of Women are taking a stand against domestic violence, arguing Salvadoran women have a right to live a violence-free life. Although slow, these organizations are seeing progress through their programs and fight tirelessly for gender equality in El Salvador.

– Kiyomi Kishaba
Photo: Wikimedia

Women-Owned BusinessesNonprofit organization Mary’s Pence is working towards a world of empowered women making changes in their communities. To get there, Mary’s Pence partners with grassroots organizations in Canada, the U.S. and Central America to provide funding and development programs for women-owned businesses.

Executive director Katherine Wojtan believes Mary’s Pence is different from other nonprofits because the organization not only cares for the individual women, but also oversees the sustainment of their small businesses. Mary’s Pence also values the idea of “accompaniment,” explained by Wojtan as utilizing the abilities of everyone to accomplish a long-term shared vision. This concept is applied to the organization’s execution of both the programs in the states and in Central America, focusing on improving the whole rather than the individual.

ESPERA

The program in Central America called ESPERA, or Economical Systems Providing Equitable Resources for All, was created almost 12 years ago. “Espera” is the Spanish word for hope, a fitting name for the life-changing program working with women in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador.

“This is very intentional, it is not about making individual women rich, but about ensuring all women have access to resources and skills to make their way in the world and earn what they need for a good life,” Wojtan said.

ESPERA aids women who were victims of domestic or gang violence or are single mothers struggling to make ends meet. By giving grants to grassroots organizations in struggling communities, Mary’s Pence creates community-lending pools which women can take loans from to start local women-owned businesses that generate income. To ensure success, the staff of Mary’s Pence teach the community loan management and help elect leaders to track the lending.

Gilda Larios, ESPERA team lead, grew up in Guadalajara, Mexico and worked with Central American refugees before starting work with Mary’s Pence. ESPERA funding gives back to the whole community, not just the women receiving aid. Instead of focusing on building credit, women realize the importance of circulating money and products.

“Their confidence grew – first they asked for a very small loan, and over time they asked for larger loans and grew their businesses,” Larios told The Borgen Project. “With their strength, they are role models for new leadership in the community.”

ESPERA and COVID-19

ESPERA has helped develop many small women-owned businesses that create jobs for their communities and generate income for struggling women. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic put many of these businesses at risk as workers feared for their lives, but the ESPERA team responded fast, changing their focus from long-term development to responding immediately to the needs of the women.

As some women panicked about their businesses and the effects of the pandemic, the ESPERA team responded with a 12-week emotional wellness series, delivered via WhatsApp, and supported stores so they could keep reasonable prices for the communities. For women in the midst of paying back loans to the community-lending pool, their status is put on hold until they have the income to continue their payment.

Despite the support network ESPERA provides, the pandemic revealed some gaps in the system. It was challenging to ensure the safety of women experiencing domestic violence. The lack of access to phones and the internet made communication between communities and ESPERA leaders challenging. However, this time of crisis also brought the communities closer and proved the importance of working together through local businesses.

In her interview with The Borgen Project, Larios told of a woman named Aminta, who is in the ESPERA program in San Salvador, El Salvador. She transitioned from working in a “maquila,” or factory, to starting her own business sewing uniforms for local sports teams. During COVID-19, she also began sewing masks to help keep her community healthy. Success stories of women-owned businesses like this one propel communities into further financial security and empower other women to do the same.

Confidence and Creating Futures

Above all, ESPERA and Mary’s Pence hope to give women confidence in their own abilities to create the future they want for themselves and for their families. For Larios, the most rewarding part of working with ESPERA women is the “feeling of satisfaction and joy to see them embrace their possibilities and capacities that before they thought they didn’t have.”

Through ESPERA and their role in the creation of women-owned businesses, Mary’s Pence continues to change women’s lives by showing them the power they already had within themselves.

– Kiyomi Kishaba
Photo: Google Images

Facts About Poverty in El Salvador
El Salvador is the smallest country located in the Southern part of Central America. With a population of almost 6.5 million people, the country has the largest population density for its size in the region. The country is famous for its exports, primarily coffee and sugar, which are ideal crops for a tropical climate. The gorgeous weather also makes it an alluring vacation spot and draws tourists seeking sweeping palm trees, breathtaking views and glistening beaches from across the globe. However, just outside the paradise of the resorts is a much different world. Here are five facts about poverty in El Salvador.

5 Facts About Poverty in El Salvador

  1. The poverty rate was improving. From 2007 to 2017, El Salvador experienced some economic progress, with their poverty rate dropping from 39% to 29%. However, it will be a challenge for the country to maintain those numbers with the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic having an impact on the economy and the exports it relies on.
  2. The impoverished often live in overcrowded areas. Poorer neighborhoods, referred to as slums, tend to be located in undesirable areas that have a landscape more susceptible to danger. Many families live in small, overcrowded quarters, which can pose a major public health risk. Houses are usually built very close to each other and are sometimes adjoined in order to share materials. For many, the only choice for housing is makeshift structures that do not protect from the elements and cannot withstand the force of natural disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes or even heavy rainfall. These communities often lack basic services such as electricity, plumbing and sanitation sewer plants. This makes for unsanitary conditions and very limited access to clean water.
  3.  Schools often have a lot of empty desks. The country struggles to maintain a sufficient education system, which can largely be attributed to a high rate of dropout. Of all the children nationwide, around 34% do not attend the elementary grade levels. Furthermore, more than 60% of children do not finish high school. As a result, around 20% of the population above the age of ten are illiterate. The education deficit perpetuates the cycle of unskilled laborers joining the workforce as minors, which hinders the economy’s growth.
  4. Good job opportunities are not widely available. Much of the country’s poor population work in the manufacturing, agriculture and tourism industries. These jobs traditionally do not pay a living wage, have unsafe conditions and require long hours due to flimsy work laws and standards that are relatively unregulated by the government. Child labor is prevalent within in poorer communities, with a staggering 1.8 million children currently employed. The lack of a welfare program and the government’s failure to enforce child labor laws enable this practice. For many families living below the poverty line, this is the only way they can afford to get by.
  5.  Communities are plagued with violence and crime. El Salvador has one of the highest crime rates worldwide, directly endangering many of its citizens. Most of the crime committed is gang-related and, with the involvement of an estimated 60,000 members, gangs run rampant in practically every community. Feeling they have no other option than to flee, those vulnerable to gang activity migrate to other countries in order to find refuge and employment in a safer area. One of the gangs’ main targets is business owners, as they look to get a cut of their revenue. The loss of income severely impacts job creation and business survival.

These five facts about poverty in El Salvador are grim, but also solvable. Fortunately, Habitat for Humanity, an organization that strives to improve living conditions for the impoverished, has committed to helping. The organization has built homes for around 25,000 Salvadorans. To support the community, the volunteers also build public structures such as new schools, health centers, business suites and much more. In addition, the volunteers teach citizens job skills, money management and disaster preparation in order to give them the tools needed thrive. With continued relief efforts by humanitarian organizations, a better future can be created for current generations and generations to come.

 Samantha Decker
Photo: Flickr

homelessness in El Salvador
In 2001, a major earthquake struck El Salvador leaving many helpless and on the streets. El Salvador is the smallest country in Central America despite having a dense population of 6 million people. Now, homelessness in El Salvador is at an all-time high. Currently, over 40% of the population live in run-down homes with dirt for floors. This roughly translates to upwards of 2 million people living in disheveled and decrepit homes. Luckily, there are organizations working towards rebuilding El Salvador.

3 Organizations Combatting Homelessness in El Salvador

  1. Habitat for Humanity: Through two large-scale community projects, Habitat for Humanity has helped homelessness in El Salvador by building homes and making improvements to current houses. Juntos Construyendo mi Casa (Building my House Together), is a project that primarily focuses on constructing new homes for those who are currently in inadequate living situations. It also helps to improve existing homes by replacing dirt floors with tile or wooden flooring. Its second project, Construyendo Empoderamiento con Mujeres (Building Empowerment with Women), works on building new homes while also teaching women about their rights. This project teaches women to perform in jobs typical for males, thus providing career opportunities as well. Around 97,760 Salvadorans have received help through Habitat for Humanity’s programs.
  2. New Story Charity: In 2018, New Story Charity printed its first 3D house in Austin, Texas in under 24 hours. New Story partnered with the robotics construction company, ICON. Together, they began working to expand this construction to countries that need it most, such as El Salvador. Currently, a 3D house costs around $10,000, but New Story Charity’s goal is to reduce that price to $4,000. New Story is raising $1 million to be able to begin the construction of more homes. Though the introduction of 3D homes is new, New Story Charity has constructed over 850 non-3D homes in Haiti, El Salvador, Mexico and Bolivia. 3D homes in Tabasco, Mexico have already created an entire community of these low-cost homes. In the upcoming years, New Story Charity will begin bringing 3D homes to El Salvador. Through the development of 3D homes, homelessness in El Salvador could drastically reduce.
  3. La Carpa: Tim Ross and Erica Olson founded La Carpa, meaning “The Tent,” in the summer of 2018. Though being a Christian based organization, Ross welcomes any religious backgrounds. La Carpa provides food for many of the homeless in the community. It began with distributing coffee, food and water, but is now expanding to creating hospitality houses with the hopes of building a better and closer community. On average, 30 people visit La Carpa daily to receive coffee and a meal. La Carpa aims at not only provide food and housing to the most vulnerable but also friendship and a sense of belonging.

Though El Salvador faced great destruction in the past, it is working towards rebuilding. Through organizations like Habitat for Humanity, New Story Charity and La Carpa, homelessness in El Salvador is reducing and many of the displaced are moving off the streets and into homes.

– Erin Henderson 
Photo: Flickr

Tackling Poverty AlleviationDespite over 700 million people living in extreme poverty, poverty alleviation strategies recently reduced those rates. Poverty is multidimensional, meaning there are more aspects that one should consider than low income and resource shortages. Poverty includes hunger, malnutrition, violence, lack of human rights and little to no health care. According to Our World in Data, the fast rate in economic growth and political support for improved living standards have improved the state of poverty alleviation in various countries. Socio-economic advancement stems from improved access to opportunities where the four common areas of focus are food, education, employment and security. Here are three parts of the world tackling poverty alleviation.

China

China has made considerable progress in tackling poverty alleviation by bringing citizens out of traditional rural lifestyles. In 2018, around 41 percent of China’s rural population was living in impoverished countrysides. In 2013, China set policies to promote socio-economic development. By registering individuals into a database, China implemented rapid strategies and programs to benefit the entire nation. Meanwhile, Beijing launched an anti-poverty campaign to bring these citizens into more urban locations.

Committing to development with infrastructure and improving tourism, the government helped villagers tremendously. The government strengthened financial support by providing proper funding for health, education, industrial development and agricultural modernization and better access to the internet. Specifically, the 2007 health reform addressed poverty alleviation by providing health care centers for men and women and improving the quality of these centers.

Additionally, the Guizhou Province gave millions of dollars to poor students in 2015 to provide meals to children during the day. Feeding the children increases confidence and improves performance in the classroom. China also built schools in rural and mountain areas to accommodate male and female students. Educating the young means future generations should be able to rise out of poverty as well.

Poverty alleviation also occurs from supporting livestock and crop production in regard to trade partners. Improving farming practices also decreases pollution throughout the country. The Ministry of Agriculture has fully invested in increasing sustainability within agricultural and technological development.

Africa

Government resources in Africa have been vital to the 13 percent poverty alleviation from 1990 to 2015. To combat corruption, Uganda created an anti-corruption action plan through the Ministry of Ethics and Integrity. Tanzania even followed these steps with a National Anti-Corruption Strategy and Action Plan. Other programs directed toward social welfare have also contributed to economic growth. By providing conditional cash-transfers, African citizens have more financial security. Promoting governmental transparency through the 2003 Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) has protected citizens from violence at a political level.

Further, education for youngsters, with a target for girls and women, have slowed economic poverty; gender inequalities have traditionally set back girls and women in society. The Africa Educational Trust (AET) program focuses on self-empowerment and providing education for all, and is breaking the glass ceiling for African women. Improving inclusivity within communities by removing these women and girls from traditional societal roles inevitably protects from violence. Not only do women get the opportunity to progress in society, but fertility and child mortality rates decline through improved prenatal nutrition.

Finally, agricultural investments through governmental incentives have enhanced food production. South Africa’s Expanded Public Works Program (EPWP) launched in 2004 with the aim of expanding job and industrialization practices. Access to clean water through sanitation reforms has drastically improved health status throughout the continent. In Nigeria, the Third National Urban Water Sector Reform Project tackles the water-scarcity issue by investing in water treatment, disease prevention and enhanced water distribution strategies.

El Salvador

El Salvador stands out as one of the more impoverished countries in Latin America. However, in 2013, the poverty rate dropped from 40 percent to 28.9 percent. The government transformed the national debt by addressing historical conflicts that damaged the economy. Tensions between the government and gang warfare affected 16 percent of the country’s annual GDP. Addressing gang violence through the Youth Employability and Opportunities initiative gives children a future involving better education without the pressure of joining a gang to survive.

The Civil War from 1980-1992 also put an enormous strain on the country’s safety. The Safe El Salvador plan addresses poverty alleviation by strengthening community bonds.

Additionally, health care and job investments have aided the country’s endeavors of poverty alleviation. The Strengthening Public Health Care System project invested in health services that have declined mortality rates and have improved disease prevention. Further, the El Salvador government partnered with the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) in 2014 to focus on the youth by providing infrastructure and skills to stabilize the economy.

The Social Protection Universal System in 2014 assisted in the protection of the country’s citizens regarding human rights. Another danger to the country is natural disasters, which take a massive toll on the environment and safety of the large population. The government created the El Salvador Disaster Risk Management program to prepare for emergencies such as earthquakes and tropical storms, but it also addressed the recovery process after they hit.

Despite slower progress in some regions of the world, these three parts of the world are continuing to make tackling poverty alleviation a main focus. Investing in the wellbeing of people is a common practice in maintaining human dignity and saving countless lives every day. By establishing attainable goals and understanding the nature of poverty, countries can make significant changes for the future of the globe.

Sydney Stokes
Photo: Pixabay