The Republic of El Salvador
Current issues and what the World Food Programme is doing
El Salvador is the smallest and most densely-populated country in Central America, with a population of 6.4 million. Almost 32 percent live in poverty in El Salvador, a lower-middle-income country where wealth distribution is significantly unequal.
The country’s position on the Pacific Ocean makes it subject to severe weather conditions, with recurrent heavy rainstorms and severe droughts that have been exacerbated by El Nino. El Salvador is one of the most seismically active regions on earth, situated on three tectonic plates. It is also vulnerable to volcanic eruptions, with 20 active volcanoes, some of them located in coffee-producing areas. The country is ranked 10th on the 2015 World Risk Index and 12th on the 2015 Global Climate Risk Index.
What are the current issues in El Salvador?
Three major nutritional problems overlap in El Salvador: stunting (caused by chronic malnutrition) in children aged under five years; anemia in women of reproductive age; and obesity in adults (also increasingly seen in children). Although chronic malnutrition among children aged under five has fallen to 14 percent from the previous 19.2 percent, acute malnutrition has doubled to 2.1 per cent from 1 percent, since 2008 (2014 National Health Survey).
Violence remains a major problem. El Salvador is one of the world’s most violent countries not at war. According to the Attorney General’s Office, the homicide rate in 2015 was 18 per day which exceeds the homicide rates during the civil war of 1980 – 1992. Gang activity means certain areas and services – including health and education - are inaccessible to those who live in gang-ridden zones.
What is the World Food Programme doing in El Salvador?
WFP’s country strategy contributes to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and strengthens Government programmes and projects within the framework of the Government´s five-year development plan through 2019 (“Plan Quinquenal de Desarrollo- PQD”) and Plan El Salvador Seguro.
WFP in El Salvador has switched its assistance from food delivery to cash and/or vouchers as it strives to effectively meet the needs of Salvadoran people.
Voucher transfers use a plastic card that allows holders to buy food to support themselves and their families from a co-operating partner, usually a local supermarket. The voucher system has helped WFP to reduce the costs of food delivery and has empowered beneficiaries to select their food from a wide range of products.
Cash transfers can take the form of physical cash or electronic disbursement of assistance to an individual or household, and also let people choose their own food from participating markets.
Nutrition-sensitive social protection
Programmes aimed at improving social safety nets include Nutrimos El Salvador, which strengthens the Salvadoran government’s capacity to scale-up high-impact nutrition interventions during the critical 1,000 days from pregnancy to a child’s second birthday.
Progresando El Salvador supports Government efforts to alleviate critical poverty, and food and nutrition insecurity. It also assists in reconstructing livelihoods of people affected by shocks such as coffee rust.
Seguridad Alimentaria y Nutricional para la Niñez y el Hogar Salvadoreño (SANNHOS) provides technical assistance to the Government in public policy development and the creation of laws and regulations that favor of food and nutrition security.
Further, these programmes all teach the most vulnerable population groups about the importance of a healthy diet, good hygienic practices, adequate food handling and storage.
Disaster Risk Mitigation and emergency preparedness
WFP’s Protracted Relief and Recovery Operation (PRRO) helps sustain disaster-hit communities as they re-establish livelihoods and stabilize food security. As well, WFP works with the Directorate General of Civil Protection to strengthen emergency response capacity at municipal, departmental and national level to prepare for disasters.
Market access for smallholder farmers
PROFARMERS EL SALVADOR collaborates with the Government to improve the ability of 50,000 smallholder farmers to sell to formal markets, add more value to their products, and ensure stable supplies for the country. This project follows the successful Purchase for Progress (P4P) initiative.
Resilience programmes aim to help ensure self-sufficiency and improve the family economy of smallholder farmers. By generating opportunities to diversify their agricultural production systems, such as rain harvesting systems, these farmers can increase their resilience to climate-related phenomena, such as recurrent droughts.
World Food Programme partners in El Salvador
WFP cannot fight global hunger and poverty alone. These are our partners in El Salvador:
- Government of El Salvador
- Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Agriculture and Health
- General Directorate of Civil Protection
- World Vision El Salvador
- Save the Children
- Plan International
Want to know more about WFP partners? Visit WFP's Partnerships section.
Featured El Salvador publications
A Country Brief provides the latest snapshot of the country strategy, operations, operational highlights (achievements and issues/challenges), partnerships and country background.
Looking for more publications on El Salvador? Visit the El Salvador publications archive.