More on El Salvador

What are the current issues in El Salvador

El Salvador is a middle-income country with 6.21 million inhabitants (52.3% women, 47.7% men) located in the Pacific coast of Central America. El Salvador is the smallest and most densely populated country of this region, with an average of 295 habitants per square kilometer.

El Salvador is a middle-income country with 6.21 million inhabitants (52.3% women, 47.7% men) located in the Pacific coast of Central America. El Salvador is the smallest and most densely populated country of this region, with an average of 295 habitants per square kilometer. The country has an unequal distribution of wealth, displaying a GINI coefficient of 0.44, meaning that the richest 10% of the population receives incomes 44 times higher than the poorest 10% (EHPM, 2011). At national level, 40.6% of the households are poor and 12.2% of these families live in extreme poverty (EHPM, 2011).

The 2011 EHPM National Survey showed that rural poverty was 50.2% and urban 35.4%. The increasing external debt of US$12.95 billion (51.7% of GDP) make it challenging for the government to sustain its budgetary commitments to social programmes.
The country is highly dependent on imports and remittances (17% of GDP) making the poor highly vulnerable to external shocks. El Salvador is very vulnerable to natural disasters, ranking ten out of 173 countries in the 2011 World Risk Report and 23 out of 182 countries in the 2012 Global Climate Risk Index. More than 88% of the national territory is at risk, containing 95.4% of the total population.

Recurrent food and nutrition insecurity is due to increased environmental vulnerability, which impacts food availability, food access and food consumption during and after a disaster. The lack of systems to ensure emergency preparedness among those most vulnerable also increases their recurrent food and nutrition insecurity. In the past ten years, the country has suffered eight major disasters which resulted in the death of 1,984 people and economic losses of US$3.2 billion. According to the regional summary of the impact of Tropical Depression 12E, prepared by ECLAC/World Bank/IDB/UNDP/GFDRR in November 2011, 12E affected more than 1.4 million people with damages worth more than US$300 million.

The nutritional health of the population shows that national food and nutrition security have been at risk for some time. The FESAL Health Survey of 2008 indicates that 19% of children between 3 and 59 months of age have low height for their age. Approximately 19.2% of children under 5 year are chronically undernourished; 40% of children from 6 to 11 months have anemia (the main micronutrient deficiency) and 17.2% of pregnant women suffer anemia at the end of their pregnancy.

WFP’s 2012-2016 Country Strategy in El Salvador contributes to the Millennium Development Goals and El Salvador’s 2010-2014 National Development Plan by supporting the government to ensure the food and nutritional security of the population. The strategy gives priority attention to vulnerable people and seeks to contribute in three areas:

  • Improving Social Protection schemes through food and nutrition based interventions;
  • Strengthening Disaster Risk Mitigation and Emergency Response; 
  • Strengthening Small Holder Agriculture and Associated Marked Development.

New projects in formulation include a Climate Change and Sustainable Agriculture project aimed at enhancing the food security and nutrition of small agricultural producers in El Salvador’s dry corridor, and a National Food Reserve to assist food insecure families against food price increases.

What the World Food Programme is doing in El Salvador

WFP operations in El Salvador are designed to contribute to the food and nutrition security of the most vulnerable population groups

  • Social Protection

Nourishing El Salvador: its goal is to provide nutrition education and complementary feeding to 20,000 children under two and 2,000 pregnant and lactating women. The actions are focused in 36 municipalities where 1 out of every 5 children does not consume enough food in quantity and quality. Nutrition Education and Food Assistance are the main project components.

Nutrition Education: its objectives are to educate, both women and men, about the importance of a good diet and nutrition, the use of good practices in hygiene, storage and handling of food and the application of guidelines for planning, organization and preparation of foods, both for emergency and development contexts. This educational strategy has become a cross cutting component of all current and future projects of WFP in El Salvador.

  • Disaster Risk Mitigation

The lives and livelihoods of thousands of Salvadorans living in areas with high levels of risk and vulnerability are constantly affected by natural hazards that impact with more frequency and magnitude. The Protracted Relief and Recovery Operation (PRRO) is WFP's mechanism to provide support the Government of El Salvador in its efforts to attend to populations most affected by emergencies caused by floods, droughts, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and, pests. At present, WFP is piloting the modality of Cash and Voucher (C&V) transfers to support vulnerable rural families whose food security has been hampered by the impact of the coffee leaf rust on their livelihoods.

The Central America Early Warning System:  its objective is the strengthening of systems and capabilities of early warning in Central America. Under the focus of humanitarian response, involving regional and local actors, the system’s priority is on food insecure and vulnerable populations. This system is part of the regional information and communication platform of CEPREDENAC (Coordination Centre for The prevention of Natural Disasters in Central America).

Regional Humanitarian Response Center in El Salvador: this Center is managed by WFP in coordination with the Government of El Salvador. Its objective is to ensure a quick and timely response in the first 24-48 hours after a disaster. It is stocked with food and other humanitarian non-food items to provide food assistance to El Salvador and other countries in the region. Since 2012, WFP has implemented a Forward Purchase Facility (FPF), in order to be better prepared for an immediate response in emergency situations. The FPF is a pilot project that operates as a revolving fund to facilitate the purchase of commodities such as beans and oil by the countries in the region.

Vulnerability Assessment and Mapping (VAM) technical support service: WFP is recognized in the area of risk mitigation disaster for its expertise in the design and implementation of comprehensive information and monitoring systems, which can serve as early warning platforms with a food and nutrition security focus. El Salvador has developed this analysis capacity during the past few years and is currently making it available for its partners and counterparts at the regional level.

  • Strengthening of smallholder farmers and market development

Purchase for Progress (P4P): WFP is implementing initiatives to reduce the vulnerability to food insecurity of smallholder farmers of basic grains. WFP is strengthening their capacities to compete more fairly, increase their incomes, improve quality and local production toward greater food security for their families. P4P promotes the exchange of knowledge, experiences and good practices and has a priority focus on women support and participation.

  • New and innovative project initiatives

Building Resilient Communities in Degraded Watersheds in El Salvador: in coordination with Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAG) and National Center for Agricultural and Forestry Technology (CENTA), the project’s primary objective is to build the resilience of smallholder farmers in micro watersheds located in three regions: Metapán lagoon in the Department of Santa Ana, La Montañona in the Department of Chalatenango, and the Southern Cacahuatique Micro Region (MICSUR) in the Department of Morazán, through training in agro-environmental issues, the rehabilitation and improvement of livelihoods and, rehabilitation of their lands and therefore their food and nutrition security. The project would assist 6,000 small farmers and their families (30,000 people) over a period of 3 years.

Farmers to Markets: In coordination with MAG and CENTA, the project’s objective is to enhance the food and nutrition security of 10,000 smallholder subsistence staple grain farmers (maize and beans) and their families. These vulnerable rural families are located in 11 municipalities of El Salvador, which under the project’s strategy will be supported in making an integral transition from subsistence agriculture to a surplus agricultural production. This transition process will be facilitated under the Project, though Access to four basic markets:

  • Finance;
  • Insurance and/or warranty programs;
  • Technical assistance / technology transfer, and iv) staple grain sales, under a scheme that promotes associativity, gender equity, environmental sustainability, all aimed at improving resilience at the household and community level;

Food Rescue – Soup Kitchens: considering that El Salvador had an estimated annual food inventory loss of US$ 5.5 Million in 2012 and that there is a problem of social exclusion, which includes situations of food and nutrition insecurity and deficiency in access to basic services; the overall objective of the project is to strengthen the universal social protection system, through a strategy of operational research and institutional learning to establish a logistics chain for food rescue linked to the creation of soup kitchens in the urban area of San Salvador, to allow access to healthy and safe food, nutrition and hygiene education for the target population of 150,000 beneficiaries.

Featured El Salvador publications

  • El Salvador: WFP Country Brief (PDF, 464 KB)

    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.