El Salvador's water crisisEl Salvador is Central America’s most densely populated nation and water is crucial to more than 6 million people who call El Salvador home. However, diminishing supplies and high water pollution levels have plunged El Salvador’s into a deep crisis over water access.

El Salvador’s Water Crisis

More than 1.6 million El Salvadorians have no access to clean water at home, with 90% of surface water unsafe for drinking, some are forced to make trips to communal water sources up to 20 times a day. El Salvador’s extraordinarily high water pollution levels can be attributed to sources such as industrial and agricultural runoff, where poor state infrastructure means that water is often left untreated. Without clean water, diseases such as dysentery can impact education and household income, as children and adults are too ill to attend school or work. According to U.N. estimates, at least 27% of Salvadorans live in poverty. Many lack the means to afford proper treatment, meaning that diseases can be fatal up to 50% of the time.

Capacity Building

While the severity of El Salvador’s water crisis cannot be denied, various solutions offer hope for those most affected. Strengthening the capacity of El Salvador’s water infrastructure is being implemented in several key ways. After decades of inaction, the Salvadoran government passed the Water Resources Law in 2022, which established a local water regulation authority and requires government approval for industrial or agricultural water usage. Regulating the usage of El Salvador’s water should aid the government in ensuring wastewater is treated and reducing overall pollution. The World Bank has dedicated $100 million to improving water quality in El Salvador with a project that aims to benefit the health and well-being of the most vulnerable groups. A further $100 million was pledged by the Inter-American Development Bank to improve water access for around 120,000 households. El Salvador has also recently banned mining for metal, a leading cause of water pollution in the country.

Water Purification

El Salvador’s water crisis is also being addressed by water purification initiatives, which allow vulnerable residents to access clean water while waiting for infrastructure to be strengthened. More than 2,500 rural families now benefit from solar-powered wells. In areas with insufficient electrical grid capacity, solar power drives clean water from wells into storage tanks. Where clean water is unavailable, sand filtration technology can be used to remove impurities and toxins in water, giving communities access to clean water while removing the need to travel. El Salvador’s water crisis severely threatens its most vulnerable citizens. Pollution and poor infrastructure have left millions without safe water sources. However, capacity building, investment and water purification technology provide a crucial lifeline to El Salvador’s most impoverished citizens.

– Jamie Paterson
Photo: Flickr

Social Issues in El SalvadorEl Salvador is a small nation in Central America sharing borders with Honduras and Guatemala. A poor education system, high crime rate (namely because of gang warfare), homelessness and high migration, all represent the social issues in El Salvador. These social problems have been a catalyst for poverty in El Salvador, where 26% of Salvadorans live below the poverty line. This is significantly worse than the international poverty average of 9.2%, highlighting the troubling situation in El Salvador.


Crime, particularly gang violence, is a major contributor to poverty in El Salvador. The country’s homicide rate is one of the highest in the world; in 2022, there were 7.8 homicides per 100,000 people.

Gangs and criminal organizations frequently introduce drugs and gun violence to the population, particularly the El Salvadoran youth. Furthermore, many young people are indoctrinated into these gangs.

The power and influence gangs have in El Salvador, especially in poor outskirt neighborhoods, hinder any growth potential in such areas. According to a Global Majority E-Journal, El Salvadoran gangs  ”impose their own law” on neighborhoods, and this ”blocks off alternative ways of life” for people living in places where gangs have power. As a result, many citizens are unable to access new opportunities and growth.

On the bright side, the crime rate in recent years has slowed. In 2020, El Salvador had a crime index of 68.0, ranking as the ninth highest globally for crime. This later decreased to a score of 64.4, with El Salvador dropping to 17th in 2023.


The poor education system in El Salvador is also a driver of poverty. While 11% of children do not complete primary school, this figure goes to a 22% incompletion rate at secondary levels. This is indicative of a problem of high dropout rates and incomplete education among the El Salvadoran youth, according to a 2018 report.

The disparity between the wealthy and poor in El Salvador’s education system is a major reason why it contributes to poverty. According to Global Majority E-Journal, the government “discriminates” against poor children in favor of wealthy children. Consequently, poor children either can’t attend or are less motivated to attend school. In turn, this averts any advancements or opportunities the affected children can take advantage of, plundering them deeper into poverty. As a result of the wealthy/poor divide, the state of wealth distribution also worsens.

Poor attendance at school, particularly among the poorest children, provides opportunities for gangs to recruit members. This also contributes to higher crime and diverts these children from pursuing legal and skilled work.


As a consequence of high crime rates and poor education, alongside low levels of living standards, many El Salvadorans choose to migrate – the United States (U.S.) is their most popular destination. Migration numbers tell the story. In 2019, 1.6 million people (25% of the population) lived abroad, with 90% living in the U.S.

Similar to the issues faced in education and crime, the migration problem is also responsible for the lack of growth. Limited personnel in labor due to migration particularly affects El Salvador’s youth. Of those unemployed, 40% are aged 16-24.

Domestic policies that aim to increase government autonomy and “promote public/private sector” partnerships also aim to encourage El Salvadorans to stay. Furthermore, U.S. aid and development plans in Central America seek to reduce the poverty rate in El Salvador. Around $500 million in U.S. aid in 2021 was put toward Central American development. In El Salvador, the U.S. hopes that funding will “reduce irregular migration from the region and improve livelihoods at home.”

What’s Next?

Despite the many social issues in El Salvador, there are positive signs of progress. The country has experienced a decrease in its crime rate in recent years, offering hope for improved safety and stability. Efforts by both the domestic government and international partners, such as the U.S., aim to address the root causes of poverty in El Salvador and promote development, with a focus on education and livelihood opportunities for the youth. These initiatives provide a glimmer of optimism for a brighter future for the people of El Salvador.

– Max Steventon
Photo: Flickr

Health care in El SalvadorEl Salvador, the smallest yet most densely packed country in Central America, has historically only seen moderate poverty reduction and has suffered from constant low levels of economic growth. The population faces development challenges due to high out-of-pocket expenditures, which have greatly limited access to health care. Citizens living in rural, poorer areas of the country experience the most impact of the weak health care system. This results in increased morbidity, mortality and disability from diseases.

National Health Strategy

In recent years, poverty and inequality rates have significantly decreased. From 2007 to 2019, the poverty rate fell by 17% and extreme poverty dropped by 11.5%, making El Salvador one of the most equitable countries in Latin America. A significant contribution to the decline was the launch of the National Health Strategy in 2009. This governmental initiative aims to enhance the quality of care, reduce inequalities in access to care and improve the Ministry of Health’s overall system management.

Strengthening Public Health Care System

In support of El Salvador’s health reforms, the World Bank created the Strengthening Public Health Care System project, which focused on responding to the evolving needs of the nation. The project poured investments into more than 51 primary care hospitals and 30 secondary and tertiary hospitals, and this allowed for greater maintenance of clinical infrastructure and medical equipment. Additionally, the funding strengthened the National Institute of Health and the National Reference Laboratory, both of which are responsible for conducting surveys and collecting data required for monitoring public health during outbreaks of infectious diseases.

Project Results

The project targeted 2.1 million people across 92 municipalities in El Salvador. In regards to strengthening the Ministry of Health’s institutional capacity, it was able to improve safety standards and environmental regulations surrounding biohazard waste disposal. With respect to vaccination rates, the goal was to immunize 92.8% of children with a pentavalent vaccine by 2016 and by 2014, the nation had reached 95%. Additionally, in terms of child delivery, the aim was to have 84% of births take place in health care facilities by 2018. By the end of 2017, 99.8% of births were occurring in a clinical environment. Due to improved neonatal care and hospitalized deliveries, the rate of maternal mortality massively decreased from 65.4 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2006 to only 31 deaths in 2017. Also, the rate of infant mortality declined from 26.9 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2000 to only 12.5 deaths in 2017.

Looking Ahead

El Salvador has made significant strides in poverty reduction and health care access through initiatives such as the National Health Strategy. With investments from the World Bank’s Strengthening Public Health Care System project, the country has improved infrastructure, increased vaccination rates and achieved high rates of facility-based childbirth. These efforts have resulted in a substantial decrease in maternal and infant mortality rates, demonstrating the positive impact of strengthened health care systems on the well-being of the population.

– Divya Swaminathan
Photo: Flickr

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 2019, El Salvador experienced some economic progress, with its poverty rate dropping from 39% to 22.3%. However, it will be a challenge for the country to maintain those numbers considering how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting the economy and the exports the country 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 one can largely attribute to a high rate of dropouts. 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 10 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 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.  Violence and crime plague communities. 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.

Looking Ahead

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 to thrive. With continued relief efforts by humanitarian organizations, a better future can emerge for current generations and generations to come.

 Samantha Decker
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About U.S. Involvement in Central America
Central America consists of Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua and Panama. U.S. involvement in Central America has been consistent throughout history and into the present day. The U.S. provides aid to Central American countries and supports their development projects. Recently, the U.S. has placed special emphasis on providing aid to the Northern Triangle countries of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. These are the 10 facts about U.S. involvement in Central America.

10 Facts About U.S. Involvement in Central America

  1. In 2018, Guatemala received $80.6 million in U.S. aid, while Honduras received $67.8 million and El Salvador $46.3 million. These countries used the received aid to reduce crime, corruption and poverty. Some of the specific U.S. goals behind the aid included improving development in Guatemala, increasing economic growth by training workers and increasing production in El Salvador and addressing the high rates of poverty and hunger in Honduras.
  2. In the past decade, USAID has provided Guatemalan farmers with greenhouses, new irrigation systems and the machinery needed to plant new types of crops. In the past, many Guatemalans could not farm the land in their home country and migrated out of necessity. Thanks to USAID, Guatemalans can now farm their land effectively.
  3. Between 2011 and 2014, USAID worked to combat violence and crime in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Panama. USAID implemented new programs within communities and emphasized employment opportunities and criminal justice reform. In 2014, data showed that individuals living in neighborhoods with USAID initiatives felt safer and were more optimistic about their communities and police forces. There was a 51 percent decrease in individuals who felt aware of murder and extortion in their neighborhoods, a 14 percent decrease in the perception of gang violence and a nine percent increase in respect for law enforcement in areas impacted by USAID anti-crime initiatives. USAID reports that its efforts reduced murder rates significantly in El Salvador.
  4. USAID collaborates with Central American governments to fund programs designed to improve Central America’s living conditions. USAID programs provide job training for young Guatemalans. USAID also works to rehabilitate ex-convicts in El Salvador, teach entrepreneurship skills to young people in Honduras and financially assist Guatemalan farmers.
  5. Fifty-seven percent of U.S. aid provided to El Salvador in 2017 was used to improve its criminal justice system. Much of the aid funded training for police officers and public defenders. U.S. aid also funded anti-corruption initiatives in the Salvadoran attorney general’s office.
  6. U.S. aid provides funding for anti-corruption investigations of the Honduran government. It also funds monitoring of the Honduran electoral system and combats poverty in rural Honduras.
  7. In 2017, Honduras used over 50 percent of its aid funding to help the poor. The U.S.-funded programs implemented addressed child malnourishment and treated HIV. Honduras also used U.S. aid to assist with sustainable agriculture practices.
  8. In 2014, the U.S. collaborated with the governments of the three Northern Triangle countries to increase economic development. The U.S. provided $750 million for this project in 2014. By 2017, conditions in the Northern Triangle had improved enough to reduce rates of illegal migration to the lowest levels seen since 1971.
  9. By 2017, the positive results mentioned in these 10 facts about U.S. involvement in Central America were visible. There was a decrease in homicide rates in all three Northern Triangle countries and 20,000 new agricultural jobs in rural Guatemala. Meanwhile, agricultural sales in Guatemala increased by 51 percent.
  10. Since 2016, U.S. aid to Central America has decreased by about 20 percent.The State Department claims that the aid provided to Central American countries in the past did not create positive results. To protect U.S. foreign aid to the Northern Triangle and continue the positive effects discussed in these 10 facts about U.S. involvement in Central America, U.S. voters can contact Congress here.

U.S. aid has played an important role in reducing violence and poverty in Central America. These 10 facts about U.S. involvement in Central America show the positive results of U.S. foreign aid and enhance the idea that reducing the amount of aid provided would be detrimental to the people of Central America.

– Emelie Fippin
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in El Salvador
El Salvador is the smallest country in Central America, bordered by Guatemala and Honduras. It is about the same size as the state of Massachusetts with a population of 6.4 million people. Most of the country overflows with mountains and rainforests, while one side is bordered by the Pacific Ocean, possessing miles of sandy beaches. El Salvador is a unique country filled with vivid culture, people, and beauty. In the article below, a list of the top 10 facts about living conditions in El Salvador is presented.

  1. El Salvador has an extremely dense population. As of 2016, the population density was about 306 people per square kilometer of land. This creates overcrowded living situations, squeezing huge families into tiny houses. As a result, for low-income families, alleyway houses are created in rows of up to 50.
  2. The education level remains extremely low. Many children do not end up attending secondary school due to financial or economic reasons. Most families cannot afford to send their child to school and other children must work in order to help support their families. Almost 20 percent of males and 25 percent of females aged 15 or above cannot read or write.
  3. El Salvador has one of the highest rates of crime and murder in the world. The country has been labeled, “the most violent in Latin America.” From 2014 to 2017, about 20,000 people were murdered as a result of gang violence. The gangs are active in 94 percent of the country and run as a continuous threat to children, families and business owners.
  4. Agriculture plays a key role in the economy of the country. Agriculture employs about 25 percent of the country’s labor force and meets about 70 percent of the countries food needs. The top agricultural exports include coffee and sugar. Having the country’s mild climate and fertile soil in mind, it is safe to say that these exports will continue to provide a steady income.
  5. El Salvador is extremely prone to natural disasters. Due to its location in a very seismically active region, the annual average loss from earthquakes for the country is about $176 million or 0.7% of the country’s GDP. Floods, tropical storms and volcanoes have also been known to displace many families.
  6. Although poverty is a persistent issue, it has been declining over the past decade. The poverty rate declined 8 percent from 2007 to 2016. The extreme poverty rate also declined 5 percent over the same time period. This was a result of several factors, most notably increased salary and economic growth.
  7. El Salvador struggles to provide quality and adequate health care to its people. This is directly associated with a low level of income of most individuals and families. Upon illness, these people are unable to receive the proper medical care they need. The health care system was ranked poorly, coming in at 115th place out of 190 different countries’ health care systems around the world.
  8. Because of the overall low-income levels, the housing situation is evidently affected. In urban settings, most of the homes are made up of bricks and cement. They are extremely small, averaging about 480 square feet, sometimes even for very large families. In the slums, most of the houses are huts made with aluminum sheets, cardboard and plastic.
  9. About 1.8 million minors between the age of 5 and 17 are forced to work. Often times these children are placed in unsanitary or dangerous work environments just to earn a few dollars for themselves and their families.
  10. In 2016, the World Bank Group proposed a new Country Partnership Strategy for El Salvador. This initiative focuses on several areas including economic growth, education and employment. It was created to work with and support the government’s ambitious agenda for change.

The top 10 facts about living conditions in El Salvador open the door for several improvements and changes the country has the opportunity to make over the next few years. Slowly but surely, El Salvador is developing better living conditions for its people.

– Savannah Huls

Photo: Flickr

Remittances to El Salvador

The Trump administration has announced an end to temporary protected status (TPS) for the 200,000 El Salvadoran refugees residing in the U.S. Immigrants have until Sept. 9, 2019, to either obtain a green card or to exit the country. Critics of the policy argue that El Salvador is unable to support an influx of citizens and point to the importance of remittances to El Salvador for the families that depend on this source of income.


Why Refugees Need TPS

El Salvadoran immigrants were granted temporary protected status in 2001 following two devastating earthquakes. Once enrolled in the program, immigrants have access to social security cards and a pathway to legal employment.

TPS status was originally granted to El Salvadoran refugees for only 18 months. However, previous administrations have repeatedly extended the program due to other adverse conditions like poverty and violence, as these have worsened since the earthquakes. For a country not at war, El Salvador has the highest homicide rate in the world: 108 per 100,000 people.


Remittances to El Salvador

El Salvadoran workers send billions of dollars annually back home to their families. These money transfers are called remittances. El Salvador has one of the highest remittance rates in the world.

In 2016, approximately 1.2 million El Salvadoran immigrants lived in the United States. They sent $4.6 billion in remittances back to El Salvador, making up 17 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Remittances to El Salvador have a much larger impact on the country’s economy than foreign aid. The United States sent only $88 million in aid to El Salvador in 2016.

According to Manuel Orozco, a political scientist with Washington D.C. think-tank InterAmerican Dialogue, between 80 and 85 percent of El Salvadoran immigrants send money back home. Orozco estimates that the average immigrant sends $4,300 annually. More importantly, Orozco estimates that one in 20 El Salvadoran households depend on remittance for survival.


How Remittances Help Those in Poverty

Remittances to El Salvador often help the poorest families access education, clothing, medicine and financial support for elderly citizens. In 2013, about 33 percent of households receiving remittance were considered poor, while about 46 percent were considered vulnerable. This suggests that remittance payments play an important role in keeping vulnerable households above the poverty line.

Remittances made up about 50 percent of monthly household income for recipients. Remittances constituted an even larger percentage of monthly household income for rural households and female- and elderly-led households.

Additionally, households receiving remittance in 2013 were more likely to have access to running water, bathrooms and electricity than the average household in El Salvador. Rates of home ownership were higher in remittance households than in the average El Salvadoran household.

In 2013, 94 percent of households receiving remittances used part of the money on consumption spending. Remittances increase domestic spending by providing poor families with a greater disposable income. Eliminating this source of revenue has the potential to hurt El Salvadoran businesses and, consequently, the El Salvadoran economy.

According to economist Cesar Villalona, “It’s a cycle. If remittances went down it would plunge people into poverty and reduce spending, which would hurt companies, causing unemployment and hitting government finances.” President Trump’s repeal of temporary protected status for El Salvadoran refugees could have devastating effects on the nation of El Salvador as a whole.

– Katherine Parks

Photo: Flickr