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El Salvador

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During the February earthquake of 2001, inhabitants of isolated Canton El Llano del Carrizar (Cuscatlan) were relieved when WFP/UNV help arrived. Photo: WFP/Alejandro Chicheri
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WFP and El Salvador Announce Handover of School Meals Programme
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The Government of El Salvador and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today announced that the country’s school meals programme, in the past supported by WFP, is now fully owned and implemented by the Ministry of Education. Continue reading.

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The purpose of the School Food and Health Programme is to improve the quality of life of children through a school snack or a nutritious lunch that supports their learning process. (Copyright: WFP/Wilfredo Alfaro)

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El Salvador with its 5.7 million inhabitants (in addition over 2 million residing abroad) is a middle income country with profound inequalities in distribution of wealth (GINI: 0.52) and persisting profound levels of poverty.

The food and nutritional security situation is of concern with an estimated 16.3 percent of rural families not having sufficient earnings to cover the costs of the basic food basket. Under-nutrition figures are also worrisome: chronic under-nutrition among children under 5 years of age is 18.9% nationally, reaching 25.6% in rural areas and nearly 50% in the most vulnerable and marginal locations. Respiratory infections and diarrhea continue to be the main causes of morbidity among children.

Over the past 10 years, the country has been harshly hit by natural disasters, the most significant of which have been Hurricane Mitch (1998), two earthquakes affecting mostly affecting the Western region (2001), as well as Tropical Storm Stan (2005). In addition to their direct impact on the life and livelihoods of thousands, this chain of disasters perpetrates the cycle of poverty and under-nourishment among the most vulnerable communities. It is anticipated that the country’s vulnerability to disasters will further deteriorate due to the effects of climate change.

The already fragile situation of vulnerability to food and nutritional insecurity among large part of the poor urban and rural population has been exacerbated over the last two years by the global phenomenon of food prices increases, which severely impacted poor Salvadoran households’ purchasing power and access to appropriate food and nutrition. As a result, rural families started engaged in potentially harmful coping strategies. Moreover, official statistics indicate that during the period 2006-2007, poverty has deepened and become more widespread, rising from 30.7 to 34.6 % of the total population.  

In this context, WFP El Salvador played a critical role by:

  • Providing analytical tools and inputs, for instance by launching and coordinating a regional study and by hosting a regional forum on Markets, Prices and Food and Nutritional Security in Central America. These initiatives provided fresh insights on the dynamics of the problem, and allowed in-depth information sharing for decision makers; and
  • Complementing and accompanying the efforts of the Government of El Salvador in strengthening social protection initiatives and programmes, as well as food production and income generation interventions.

WFP activities

WFP is working to connect farmers in El Salvador to markets through the Purchase for Progress initiative. Learn more

In El Salvador WFP works with a wide range of partners including Government, regional and international institutions, NGOs, the UN system and the private sector, and at different levels, from policy development to operational implementation in the field. The key areas of intervention can be rapidly summarized as follows:

  • School Meals This is one of WFP’s flagship programmes in the country, which was successfully institutionalized under the full responsibility of the Ministry of Education at the end of 2007. Most important, the very successful hand over to Government resulted in a further strengthening of the partnership between the two institutions, with the signing of a new agreement whereby WFP is assisting national institutions in the procurement, logistics and capacity development of the National School Feeding Programme, now reaching over 875,000 school children in about 4150 schools.
  • Mother and Child Health and Nutrition interventions targeting roughly 55,000 vulnerable children under five, lactating mothers and pregnant women, in collaboration with and support to the Ministry of Health’s services.
  • Regional Relief and Recovery Operation, implemented to protect vulnerable populations and enhance their ability to respond to recurrent economic and natural disasters shocks. It includes relief, food-for-work and food-for-asset as well as capacity development activities with an emphasis on agricultural production and income diversification.
  • Purchase for Progress (P4P): Through this new modality WFP seeks to reduce agricultural households’ vulnerability to food insecurity by leveraging its purchasing power, strengthening local production capacity and stimulating local food markets.
  • Emergency Preparedness and Response: WFP El Salvador provides leadership and support at both the national and regional level in this competence area, including:
    a) managing the WFP Regional Humanitarian Response Centre for Central America (which since its establishment in mid-2007 already assisted major emergencies in Mexico, Cuba, Haiti, Belize and others); 
    b) leading the development of innovative web based Early-Warning Systems (SATCAweb, or Sistema de Alerta Temprana para Centro America), which has improved the system wide capacity to anticipate potential natural disasters; 
    c) strengthening national and regional Food Security Monitoring and Nutritional Surveillance Systems to help take informed decisions and anticipate nutritional crisis; as well as
    d) by working on disaster preparedness, mitigation and response competences and capacities always in support to national and regional institutions.
  • Capacity development and Public Policies: WFP El Salvador is a strong advocate of capacity development activities, which cut across the intervention areas of the CO; and it works intensively in supporting national institutions in public policy development, with a special focus on policies directed to enhancing social protection for the most vulnerable, and fighting child hunger and undernutrition.
  • Finally, WFP El Salvador is currently working on strengthening its focus on Climate Change issues, given the country’s high vulnerability and the potential consequences that the CC phenomena is expected to have on people food and nutritional security. 
Threats to Food Security: 
  • Natural disasters
  • Poverty
  • Insufficient food production
  • High food prices
  • Low education level
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legacy ID: 
El Salvador
Facts and Figures
Tropical; rainy season (May to October); dry season (November to April); tropical on coast; temperate in uplands
Mostly mountains with narrow coastal belt and central plateau
Food production: 
Coffee, sugar, corn, rice, beans, oilseed, sorghum; beef, shrimp
Annual harvest: 
Not available
Agricultural production (% of GDP): 
Human Development Index: 
Children under weight for age (% of children under 5): 
Population undernourished (% of total pop.): 
Global hunger index - label: 
Global hunger index - value: 
infant mortality rate per 1000 live birth - 2005 UNDP : 
Crisis Active: 
No Crisis