El Salvador

Child Protection and COVID-19: El Salvador Case Study


The impact of COVID-19 on children

El Salvador’s fragility is founded in its inability to recover as a nation from its violent past. Though it has not been formally at war since the 1990s, rates of murder and violent control over citizens, including children, and the Government’s inability to provide security and protection in the face of gang-related factionalism, are akin to that of a war zone.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, El Salvador was one of the most dangerous countries for a child to live in. Violence is perpetuated through negative peer influence, especially for adolescents, and through cultures of machismo and harsh discipline that see significant levels of violence in the home. In this context, children face significant protection concerns, including a 33% school drop-out rate, family separation and fracture due to violence, and pressure to join gangs that begins at an early age2 . El Salvador has the highest proportion of internally displaced people in Latin America, 96% of whom are displaced due to gang violence.
The pandemic has already exacerbated the poor economic conditions of most families.

It was initially a challenge to gauge the protection-related impacts that COVID-19 was having on children in El Salvador. This was due to the national protection system not recording nor reporting cases of child abuse or violence against children for months.

World Vision El Salvador therefore conducted a rapid protection assessment at the outset of the pandemic, which did find cases of child abuse and violence at the household level. Based on this information, we re-evaluated our child protection programming to see how activities could be adapted in light of the restrictions imposed due to the pandemic, thus ensuring children’s rights continued to be protected. These adaptations are outlined below.

In summary, the COVID-19 pandemic has had many, varied impacts on children’s protection and well-being.
Child protection organizations, such as World Vision El Salvador, have had to adapt their programming to meet the enhanced and particular needs of children at this time.

The objectives of our humanitarian response are:

  • Prevent infection

  • Strengthen health systems

  • Contribute to preventing secondary impacts on children

  • Advocate for child protection.

Aside from child protection, the other sectors in our country office programme are health, food security, water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH), and livelihoods.