Human Trafficking in El Salvador
Over the last decade, Central America has been notorious for drug cartels and a hotspot for human trafficking. The country also has an enriching culture with people who deserve a fighting chance at eradicating human trafficking in El Salvador.

According to the 2020 Trafficking in Persons Report, El Salvador has a Tier 2 status, meaning the government is striving to eradicate human trafficking but does not fully meet the minimum standards for complete elimination. El Salvador recorded 124 victims in comparison to 74 victims in 2019. The main demographic of human trafficking victims in El Salvador are minors and women, or more specifically, minors and women who are immigrants and have no legal documents.

Improving Investigations into Human Trafficking in El Salvador

In November 2019, the “Reginal Seminar on Investigation Techniques and Protection of Victims of Trafficking in Persons” met with experts from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and the countries that make up the Northern Central America Triangle. The main goal was to improve practices regarding investigations into human trafficking, especially in relation to its transnational nature.

“In El Salvador, more than 1,000 members of the police have been trained through 45 workshops and seminars — lasting from two to five days — hosted by international organizations like Save the Children, World Police Agency Interpol, UNICEF, the International Organization for Migration, and others,” said Jaime Armando Lopez and Xiomara Orellana, journalists covering the human trafficking rates in El Salvador, published in an Insight Crime article.

Training includes a manual that organizations such as Save the Children, World Police Agency Interpol, UNICEF, the International Organization for Migration and others provide to inform officers of what a typical victim may look like and how to assess the situation so as to prevent others from becoming trafficking victims. The officers also receive training on how to report trafficking so as to eradicate it.

According to the Trafficking in Persons Report for 2020, the anti-trafficking council implemented 19 offices in 15 municipalities to inform about human trafficking and aid victims. Additionally, El Salvador’s 2018 Inter-Institutional Action Protocol for the Immediate Comprehensive Care of Trafficking Victims provided an outline regarding what government agencies’ responsibilities in responding to trafficking victims should be.

Continuing Efforts

Aid continues to flow towards eradicating human trafficking in El Salvador. Officials received training in order to educate and equip each officer with the right tools to handle any situation that may involve a trafficking victim. They are aiming to provide legal frameworks around protecting minors who are child laborers or trafficking victims.

El Salvador, and many Central American countries, are continuing their fight against human trafficking. Eradicating human trafficking seems like a long-haul but setting preventative measures as well as post-care can encourage others to educate and help those who may be victims of trafficking.

“According to El Salvador’s national child protection council, the country’s capital only has one shelter exclusively for underage trafficking victims. Across the country, there are 15 offices that deal with human trafficking cases in different provinces. There are few places where survivors of human trafficking can receive specialized attention in the Northern Triangle,” said Jaime Armando Lopez and Xiomara Orellana of Insight Crime.

Steps to eradicate human trafficking in El Salvador should be more aggressive as victims have become widespread between those who are minors, undocumented women and victims of domestic abuse. El Salvador has limited shelters, but it is essential that more are within reach for victims.

– Vanessa Morales
Photo: Flickr

International Aid to El SalvadorEl Salvador faces threats from multiple angles as heavy tropical flooding has been compounded by the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. While El Salvador has managed to curtail infection rates by imposing strict restrictions, in October 2020, more than 32,000 people had COVID-19, with around 1,000 deaths. Due to the stringent measures to protect against the pandemic, economic growth has been stifled and poverty reduction efforts have waned. Organizations are stepping in to provide international aid to El Salvador.

Dual Disasters in El Salvador

In May and June of 2020, the tropical storms Amanda and Cristobal wreaked havoc on the people of El Salvador. Nearly 150,000 people were affected by heavy rain, flooding and severe winds. Developing countries such as El Salvador have poor building infrastructure and during natural disasters homes are more likely to be destroyed by storms. The World Food Programme (WFP) has estimated that about 380,000 people in El Salvador do not have sufficient access to nutritious food due to the dual disasters that have weakened infrastructure and the economy. An estimated 22,000 farmers have suffered from the destruction of flooding, with over 12,000 hectares of agricultural crops being destroyed.

COVID-19 Pandemic Increases Poverty

El Salvador has been moderately successful with poverty reduction, marked by a consistent decline in poverty over the past 13 years, as poverty rates plummeted from 39% to 29% between 2007 and 2017. Extreme poverty was cut from 15% to 8.5% over this time period as well. Additionally, El Salvador has increased its level of equality and is now the second most equal country in Latin America.

Despite this positive trend in poverty reduction, El Salvador has suffered from forced economic restrictions due to the pandemic. Its GDP is projected to decrease by 8% this year due to economic restrictions, a weakened international market and diminished funds sent from El Salvadorians abroad in the United States. Additionally, low income and marginalized individuals are becoming more vulnerable to health issues and wage deficiencies and are falling victim to predatory loans. El Salvador’s economic shutdown and destruction from tropical storms have prompted calls for international aid to alleviate the crisis.

Swift Action to Mitigate COVID-19

El Salvador has seen relatively low COVID-19 cases as a result of its swift response to the pandemic. It adopted strict containment measures faster than any other Central American country and invested heavily in its health system. The government has provided cash distributions to the majority of households, food for low income households and payment deferrals for rent and mortgages in order to curb the effects of the pandemic on citizens.

International Aid to El Salvador

Requests for international aid to El Salvador have been granted in the form of assistance from USAID and the WFP. These organizations are providing disaster relief and bringing in resources to those affected by the storms and the COVID-19 pandemic. USAID has donated $3 million to be dispensed by cash in stipends for vulnerable citizens to buy food. This stipend will boost local economies and reinforce food security for impoverished citizens affected by the dual disasters.

– Adrian Rufo
Photo: Flickr

Expanding El Salvador's MarketsFor several years, El Salvador’s farmers have struggled to meet the increased demand of local supermarkets and restaurant chains. Food safety standards have been particularly difficult to meet, especially with a lack of local processing plants. However, these issues are being addressed by Accesso El Salvador’s partnerships with Feed the Future Partnering for Innovation, Super Selectos and Spring Genetics. Together, Accesso and these partner organizations are expanding El Salvador’s markets to improve the quality, quantity and profit of local Salvadoran products.

Acceso El Salvador

Accesso originated in 2007 as the Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership (CGEP), which specialized in building social businesses and other development programs in Latin America and the Caribbean. In 2020, CGEP became Accesso, an independent entity that focuses more specifically on establishing local agribusinesses to build markets and ease poverty conditions. Acceso has established businesses in El Salvador, Columbia, Alimentos and Haiti.

Accesso El Salvador specializes in introducing smallholders to market networks and increasing their profit margins. Three ways it does this is by providing suppliers with sourcing and traceability services, supplying better-quality fertilizers and seed and by offering programs that teach agricultural skills. By improving smallholders’ output and sourcing their products to local businesses, Accesso El Salvador strengthens local markets. Since its establishment in 2014, this agribusiness has assisted more than 1,000 farmers and fishers.

Super Selectos

Super Selectos is an example of a supermarket chain working in alliance with Acceso to expand El Salvador’s markets. The Cultivating Opportunities program, which began in 2012, is a prime example of the economic boost that such a partnership creates. In 2019 alone, Super Selectos purchased $11 million worth of products from more than 2,500 local smallholders. This marks a 50% increase in the supermarket chain’s local sourcing. Another aspect of the program is technical training. This, combined with the increased demand, allows farmers to dramatically diversify their crops and implement profitable planting rotations.

Feed the Future Partnering for Innovation

In 2019, Accesso El Salvador partnered with Feed the Future Partnering for Innovation to expand Accesso’s agricultural programs and processing services, with the goal of adding 150 new farmers to Accesso’s network. A notable breakthrough was their joint project to establish the first vegetable processing facility in El Salvador for smallholders to meet the quality standards of major local supermarkets and restaurants. This not only secured a reliable market for farmers as well as suppliers for food chains but also increased the variety of crops that farmers can produce and the profit that follows such diversity. The new jobs that the plant created especially benefited women, allowing many to involve themselves in the agricultural community for the first time. Despite COVID-19’s impact in 2020, the partnership between Feed the Future and Acceso remained prolific, selling more than a million pounds of produce even in a time of restricted supply lines.

Spring Genetics

Growing demand for high-quality tilapia spurred a 2019 partnership between Acceso and Spring Genetics, a world-recognized tilapia breeder that specializes in introducing beneficial methods and technologies to small-scale fisheries. Previously, El Salvador’s smallholder fisheries lost more than 75% of their final product value due to inefficient operations. Spring Genetics’ advanced technology and the introduction of its genetically-superior tilapia strain, promises a dramatic increase in these smallholders’ fortunes. Accesso holds up its end of the bargain by providing sole distribution services and making plans for a new fish processing plant. As tilapia makes up the majority of El Salvador’s aquaculture products, this partnership should prove lucrative for all involved.

Partnerships Benefit All

Each of these partnerships demonstrates the immense impact that can be made through economic collaboration. Simply providing local smallholders with reliable market networks not only meets the demands of local businesses but also dramatically improves the opportunities for Salvadorans to pull themselves out of poverty. And the benefits are not one-sided. Supermarket chains like Super Selectos also profit from local sourcing. Even internationally-acclaimed companies like Spring Genetics, with its ties to the United States and Latin America, can benefit from expanding El Salvador’s markets.

– Andria Pressel
Photo: Flickr

Improving Life in El Salvador
Why would a parent ever voluntarily give up their child? In El Salvador, perilous circumstances pressure some parents to do just that for the sake of the child. Other children find themselves in orphanages because of an abusive or impoverished family. Amid economic malaise and violence, NGO Sus Hijos is improving life in El Salvador by helping Salvadoran youth find hope.

Poverty in El Salvador

In the United States, the poverty line is around $26,000 for a family of four. The same family of four in El Salvador would be making around $8,000 according to the World Bank. That is $5.50 per person daily. In 2017, the poverty rate among Salvadorans was 29%, with 8.5% of Salvadorans surviving in extreme poverty. If one compares this to 2007, these statistics are a win: that year, 39% lived in poverty and 15% in extreme poverty.

Still, the current situation presents a challenge to El Salvador’s government, other countries and private organizations as they try to reduce the poverty rate. El Salvador’s economy has grown slowly since 2000, at an average of 2.3% GDP annually, but the World Bank predicts COVID-19 will contribute to a -4.3% growth rate in 2020. Even if 2021 brings an economic rebound, growth will have stagnated and recovery will be arduous absent additional action. Gangs and corruption both present endemic barriers to anti-poverty reform. In fact, gangs have exploited the COVID-19 pandemic, as police have split their focus between law enforcement and containing the virus.

National efforts to fight corruption and violence can do good if implemented correctly but small-scale efforts should accompany them. These on-the-ground efforts can attain acceptance from the community, and help construct a bottom-up fight against poverty. One such charitable organization improving life in El Salvador is Sus Hijos.

Sus Hijos

Sus Hijos (His Children) is a faith-based NGO that has been serving in El Salvador since 2008. Its mission has expanded as its support has grown, and it now pursues a variety of poverty-reducing initiatives, such as a community feeding program, a home construction campaign and culinary and cosmetics training programs. It also uses its transition program to help Salvadoran youth stay out of gang violence and off the streets.

The Borgen Project interviewed Dave Sheppard about his work with Sus Hijos, where he served as the transition program director for more than three years, between 2013 and 2016. As the director, he helped 38 young adults through the program, 20 of whom successfully completed the two-year transition. He also observed the sights and way of life around him, in a country that hopelessness often plagues.

Transitioning from Tragedy

The situation Salvadoran youth face is especially saddening. In 2010, parents abandoned 66% of children, often because their parents were simply too poor to care for them. Abandonment is still high today, and for many, the orphanage is safer than home.

Gang violence contributes to this problem. Gangs in El Salvador may outnumber the security forces, and operate by dealing drugs, extorting business owners and human trafficking. As they often control entire neighborhoods, dividing San Salvador into regions of influence, gangsters frequently impress children as young as 10 into their network. Those who do not join experience threats, harassment and assault. Sheppard told The Borgen Project that many families willingly turn their children over to the government so that they can escape gang influence and danger.

Once children turn 18, however, they are no longer eligible to live in government care. As a result, they go back to their families as government employees cannot legally leave them on the street. With unstable family situations, many of these young adults end up on the street or in gangs.

This is where Sus Hijos and other charities step in. It picks up the children on their 18th birthdays and offers them a room, food and support for up to two years. Sheppard told The Borgen Project that Sus Hijos’ transition program targets “the worst of the worst cases” to help—often those who experienced sexual abuse as children or had to work for long hours in sugarcane fields.

Transitioning to Hope

Sus Hijos’ transition program aims to provide young adults with support while fostering work ethic and faith-based values. To enter the program, the children must agree to avoid drugs and alcohol and follow other rules that help promote their personal growth. They also had to pay $1 a day in rent—money that they would receive as a gift from Sus Hijos once they left or completed the program, Sheppard said.

While in the program, the young adults also continued their education, completed chores and worked a job to make money. A ninth-grade education is a requirement to work at certain food establishments, like McDonald’s or Super Selectos. Most children complete only a sixth-grade education in El Salvador, so moving through additional grades can translate into greater pay. Sus Hijos’ training programs in its restaurant and salon also offers the young adults real-world job skills.

 In his role as director, Sheppard purchased a bus to ferry the youth between the residence and their jobs. He said that the gangs occasionally harassed him on his routes, but such harassment became “very, very rare” once they discovered who he was. “Once they knew who I was, they would leave me alone,” he stated.

Transitioning to Success

Sheppard told The Borgen Project about two individuals whose success was above average. The first was a young woman in government care through most of her teens due to domestic abuse. She completed Sus Hijos’ two-year program and graduated high school, which ends after 11th grade in El Salvador. Unlike many Salvadorans, she managed to get into a college and complete her associate’s degree. The college was the product of a U.S. doctor who had repaired a derelict hospital. The college paid full tuition while Sus Hijos and others helped out with living costs. Sheppard keeps in touch with the young lady, who now works at a call center where she makes about $600 per month.

The other success story Sheppard mentioned was of a young man whose parents had been killed when he was only four months old. He lived in a government facility until 18, at which point he entered the Sus Hijos program. He completed his seventh, eighth and ninth-grade education while at Sus Hijos, and then left the program to work at a local grocer, where he still has employment.

Even though Sheppard’s volunteer work ended in 2016, he keeps in touch with several of the youth from the program and its administrators. Today, the transition house is assisting nine kids through the program and Sus Hijos is continuing its other works. Its contributions are part of a small-scale, non-governmental initiative with a focus on improving life in El Salvador. If Sus Hijos’ efforts are a barometer of success, the country is bound to continue improving.

Jonathan Helton
Photo: Flickr

Women's Rights in El Salvador
Establishing effective women’s rights in El Salvador, including freedom from domestic, sexual and organized violence, is challenging but not impossible. Grassroots organizations and marches are leading the charge for the law and society to be more aggressive towards male perpetrators against women.

There are similar yet unique narratives that women who endure extreme violence, die from extreme violence or seek asylum in other countries tell to escape such violence. Much of the violence that women in El Salvador endure boils down to a critical lack of reproductive choices, resources, education and discriminatory gender hierarchies in the home and the workplace. Machismo, or macho-man characteristics, beliefs are present in all of these narratives.

For women’s rights in El Salvador to flourish, the country must assess and address the ways machismo, as a form of systemic patriarchy, is persistent in the daily functions of El Salvadorian women’s lives and identify potential solutions to this system issue.

Laws Protecting Women’s Rights in El Salvador

There are a collection of laws, international and domestic, upholding women’s equal status with men, barring discrimination or violence against woman. El Salvador is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), as well as the Inter-American Convention to Prevent, Sanction and Eradicate Violence against Women (Convention of Belém do Pará).

Despite these existing conventions, reports reveal that seven of the top 10 countries with the highest femicide rates are in Latin America, including El Salvador. This highlights the primarily symbolic nature of these conventions, many of them suffering from a general lack of enforcement.

In 1996, 2010 and 2011, the Salvadoran government implemented three laws to further the protection of women’s rights and deter violence against women.

The first was the Family Domestic Violence Act (1996) addressing intra-familial violence and femicide. A 2010 law, the Special Integral Law for a Life Free of Violence against Women, aimed to punish all forms of violence against women, ranging from workplace harassment to murder. Lastly, the Creation of Specialized Courts for a Life Free of Violence and Discrimination against Women (also known as Decree 286 or the “Femicide Law”), of 2011, emerged for specialized courts to deal with cases of all violence against women, requiring all legal staff to obtain necessary knowledge on a woman’s right to a life free of violence and discrimination.

Unfortunately, the laws have not proven effective as the endurance of beatings, rapes and femicides have multiplied since the introduction of the first policy in 1996. For example, in 2012, a year after El Salvador instated the Salvadoran femicide law, the United Nations Commissioner on Human Rights (UNHCR) estimated that El Salvador’s impunity rate was as high as 77%.

Grassroots Efforts to Protect Women’s Rights in El Salvador

La Colectiva, a nonprofit based in El Salvador, aims to provide services and resources to women facing and addressing gender-based violence. The organization’s founder, Morena Herrera, strives to abolish the country’s abortion penal code. The organization not only addresses domestic conflicts but also focuses on reproductive rights and education so that women feel empowered to retain all rights to their bodies and seek help when necessary.

Abortion and reproductive rights are critical issues in El Salvador. The country has the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in all of Latin America, with one-quarter of young women ages 15 to 19-years-old having been pregnant. In fact, 41% of pregnancies among 10 to 19-year-old girls stems from sexual abuse, with 12% of those being the result of incest. The degradation of women’s rights in the eyes of the law is most apparent when women seek an abortion, as the law considers it a homicidal offense with a 30-year-minimum sentence.

The feminists of El Salvador are also targeting the judicial system, a conservative stronghold, for its negligence of violence against women cases, including the sexual assault of teenage girls. Many women deem authority efforts futile since perpetrators function about society with impunity. To offset this disparity, El Salvador is making strides to equip more women judges with proper training on gender issues, making them more likely to support victims and women’s rights in El Salvador.

In April 2017, feminist organizations throughout the country organized and demonstrated to denounce widespread sexual violence, the mysterious disappearances of women and mass femicide, in an effort to disrupt the machismo culture that affects women from all backgrounds, ages and economic statuses. These marches occur every year on March 8, International Women’s Day, as women’s rights activists demand more radical and swift change for equality.

– Vicki Colbert
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in El Salvador
In a country just shy of 6.5 million people, half of the population’s children and teenagers survive off less than $1.25 a day. It is not uncommon for impoverished young children in El Salvador to not attend school regularly and child labor is still an issue to this day. El Salvador currently has one of the top crime rates in the world making homelessness much riskier for young teens and children than in other parts of the world. Here is some information about the situation of child poverty in El Salvador.

A Lifetime of Struggle

El Salvador’s poverty issue affects a large amount of the population, but children and teens make up a big portion. In fact, four out of 10 El Salvadorans live in poverty.

Malnutrition greatly affects homeless children and 14% of children in the country experience growth stunting. Without proper food or shelter, many do not attend school because they simply cannot get there or afford it. Almost 25% of school-aged children do not attend school and roughly 10% work as child laborers. Inadequate education leads to a lack of opportunities within the country cementing these children in the cycle of poverty.

Dangers on the Streets

Children who live on the streets in El Salvador face more than malnutrition and illness. The country’s extreme crime rate makes many places unsafe. Children and teenagers are targets for the country’s violent gangs. In 2009, 241 children aged 13-17 were murdered by June and 271 were injured. The government has made attempts to protect the children that gangs target but the violence has not ended. Homeless children in El Salvador frequently do not have protection or means of escape.

Education Falls Short

Like neighboring countries, El Salvador has made education reforms in order to combat the high dropout rate and educational gaps, but it has not necessarily helped impoverished families. In fact, over 30% of children cannot afford to attend secondary education. Instead, they must work to help their family survive. In rural areas, that number doubles with children started work at age 6 on average. Families in this position survive off of $1 a day if they are lucky.

Minors between the ages of 5 and 17 make up 1.8 million individuals working in El Salvador. The conditions are dangerous, but impoverished families often do not have a choice. It is either starve and send their children to school or eat for the day and send them to work. Child poverty in El Salvador begins at a young age and the cycle is exceedingly hard to break.

Dangerous Diseases Threaten Poor Children

Accessing health care is rare even with El Salvador battling rising cases of HIV/AIDS. Children are at high risk due to how easy it is for the disease to transmit from a mother to a newborn or young child. Currently, there are 29,000 children and adults with the disease, but over half of the cases are undeclared especially within rural populations. Treatment is only available in the capital and provided by third parties. Without money to afford treatment or even travel, impoverished children that experience disease do not often have a chance to obtain treatment.

A variety of charities are aiming to help reduce child poverty in El Salvador. Save the Children is a nonprofit that has teams all over the world helping children in need. Its team in El Salvador has protected over 14,000 children from violence and helped almost 130,000 moms and newborns with vital health and care to successfully lower the infant death rate. By creating preschool programs, the organization has helped hundreds get a headstart in their education. It provides details about its efforts on its website

– Amanda Rogers
Photo: Flickr

Covid-19 in Central America
The COVID-19 pandemic seems to have left no region of the world unscathed. Central America and Mexico have certainly felt the wrath of this virus. Recent outbreaks in the region threaten to compound upon other humanitarian struggles. The U.S. has recognized this challenge and taken action to provide aid, despite facing its own issues fighting the coronavirus — the difficulties of COVID-19 in Central America and Mexico are vast.

An Issue in Central America & Mexico Before COVID-19

COVID-19 poses a health and economic challenge to Central America and Mexico. Yet, before the pandemic, the region was already suffering from poverty. As such, the pandemic has hit this area particularly hard. Our World in Data projected that the extreme poverty rate was about 8.12% in Guatemala, 14.24% in Honduras, 2.79% in El Salvador and 1.96% in Mexico in 2019. The full economic impacts of COVID-19 are not yet known.

Apart from facing extreme poverty — Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Mexico also suffer from high crime rates. In 2017, Guatemala had an intentional homicide rate of about 26.1 per 100,000, Honduras had 41.7, El Salvador had 61.8 and Mexico had 24.8.

Providing sustainable assistance to Central America is particularly important for the national security in the U.S. As of July 2019, the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition explained that there is a correlation between children seeking refuge in the U.S. and murders in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Aid to these three countries could reduce poverty and crime. Consequently, the number of people searching for safety in the U.S. may potentially decrease.

The US Steps Up

The U.S. has committed to providing more than $22 million for Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. The aid focuses on key areas of need. For example, the U.S. committed $850,000 in Migration and Refugee Assistance funding in Mexico. This includes funding for the dissemination of hygiene products and assistance creating a remote program to register asylum seekers and hold interviews.

The U.S. also committed to providing almost $6.6 million in aid to El Salvador, more than $8.4 million to Guatemala and more than $5.4 million to Honduras. Notably, these aid packages contain International Disaster Assistance for each country. The assistance also focuses on immediate and long-term health needs.

In recent months, the U.S. has also provided other forms of support to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Notable aid includes investments in critical infrastructures, such as energy programs. This is an important step in reducing poverty in the region. However, continued aid and investment are necessary to fight COVID-19 in Central America, save lives, reduce poverty and protect U.S. national security.

Global Help

This aid is a substantial sum targeted in areas that most need money to help fight COVID-19. However, there is more than the U.S. could do to protect global health. Global health spending has remained mostly constant for the past 10 years. Now, the future of U.S. global health aid is at-risk. The federal government’s spending on global health could reduce to its lowest point in 13 years if the proposed budget for the 2021 Fiscal Year receives approval. This could exacerbate outbreaks of other diseases that the U.S. has historically fought against. Without aid from the U.S., other nations such as China will have to step in as a global leader during this crisis.

Kayleigh Crabb
Photo: Pixabay

Hunger in El Salvador
El Salvador, home to more than 6.4 million people, is a middle-income country located in Central America. Despite El Salvador’s efforts to reduce poverty and food insecurity — hunger remains an issue for its citizens. Fortunately, several organizations, including the World Food Program (WFP) and Feed the Children, are stepping in to fight hunger in El Salvador.

Poverty, Agriculture and Hunger

The poverty rate in El Salvador dropped from 39% in 2007 to 29% in 2017. Throughout those 10 years, extreme poverty decreased by 6.5%. Half of the country’s youth live on just $1.25 or less a day. Reasons for continued poverty in El Salvador include high unemployment, natural disasters and crime. The World Bank predicts an increase in poverty for the year 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic that has left millions worldwide unemployed and food insecure.

Although El Salvador produces coffee, sugar, corn, rice and more — threats to agriculture remain in the nation. These threats include deforestation, soil erosion and water pollution. Furthermore, natural disasters such as hurricanes and volcanic eruptions often leave El Salvador with food shortages. In this same vein, decreased agricultural production contributes to hunger and food insecurity in El Salvador.

Between 2008 and 2014, El Salvador made progress in reducing malnutrition and food insecurity. However, 14% of children younger than 5 years old still suffer from chronic malnutrition. Hunger in El Salvador contributes to health issues that range from low birth weights to increased susceptibility to infectious diseases, such as malaria and meningitis. Children who are malnourished often also have issues with their mental development — which can impact them for the rest of their lives.

The World Food Program (WFP)

The WFP is a U.S.-based, nonprofit organization that fights global hunger. Its mission includes working with U.S. policymakers, corporations, foundations and individuals to help eliminate hunger as an issue in several countries — including El Salvador.

Through advocacy, U.S. government funding and private sector fundraising — the WFP continues to work toward ending world hunger and food insecurity. The money raised goes towards delivering food to people in need, especially women, children and those who have experienced natural disasters. Natural disasters that have impacted El Salvador in 2020 include Tropical Storm Amanda and El Nino. Both contributed to hunger, as they affected crop production.

Feed the Children

Founded in 1979, Feed the Children has had a significant impact on hunger around the globe. The organization has distributed roughly 78 million pounds of food and essential items that have benefited more than 6.3 million people worldwide. Feed the Children began working in El Salvador in 1987 and currently works in 17 communities.

In addition to providing food, Feed the Children focuses on holistic development. This includes food and nutrition, health, water and education. Its funding allows the organization to continue supporting countries like El Salvador and implement livelihood activities. For example, one livelihood activity is tilapia farming — which helps increase food and income for families in need.

Moving Forward

Addressing hunger remains a challenge for El Salvador. Natural disasters and poverty are two of the leading causes of hunger in the country. Moving forward, it is essential that organizations like the WFP and Feed the Children continue to prioritize fighting hunger in El Salvador. With continued support, there is hope for continued, significant progress.

Amanda Cruz
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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