The drought El Salvador has been experiencing since 2013 has mostly affected its eastern regions; however, the situation has become even worse since May 2014, causing the loss of a high percentage of maize and bean crops, a high rate of food insecurity, and difficulty accessing financial resources that would have come from crop sales and are an important source of income for farming families. More than 100,000 farmers across the country have suffered losses. According to El Salvador's MAG and its counterpart ministries in Central America, the 2016 El Niño phenomenon will has had an even more negative impact on agricultural activities, making it necessary to remain alert and provide for resources and efforts, including international cooperation, to deal with the difficult situation that affects poor families and farmers in eastern El Salvador in particular.
According to Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWSNET), subsistence farmers in both western and eastern El Salvador experienced a crisis between April and September 2016 due to the decline in temporary employment, rising basic food prices and difficulty accessing drinking water for consumption. The dropping levels of surface water and groundwater sources threatened families’ water supply, especially by the end of the dry season (April to May 2016) which was when temperatures were the highest.
The Eastern region has very limited access to drinking water systems, and, as a result, many communities must obtain their water from artisan wells, which tend be practically dry time of the year. Moreover, some of the rivers in northern San Miguel lack quality water to meet the families’ needs, as is the case of the Las Cañas River, which flows through the communities of San Jacinto, La Isla and La Jacinteña; however, river flow has decreased, leaving pools of stagnant water, which promotes vector proliferation.
According to forecasts by the Ministry of Environment, the El Niño phenomenon gradually weakened and entered a neutral phase between May and June 2016; there was a 65 per cent chance that it would be followed by the La Niña phenomenon from late summer to fall (August to October 2016), bringing increased rainfall with it at the end of the rainy season.
Nevertheless, according to this Ministry’s latest reports, rainfall levels from May to July 2016 were still significantly below normal because of some indicators associated with El Niño that remained active.
Generally, and due to the experiences from the past three years, families in the eastern region begin planting their second-season crops when they believe the soil has reached the required moisture levels from the seasonal rains. If forecasts by the Ministry of Environment are correct and El Niño is in fact followed by La Niña, this transition could start in July, August, September and October 2016, bringing excess rainfall that would cause families to lose their crops once again.
The National Society has focused its efforts on the department of San Miguel in order to follow up on actions previously implemented under the Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF), prioritizing the northern communities (535 families) of La Isla, San Jacinto, La San Jacinteña, Concepción Corozal and Altomiro; and southern communities in Canton El Progreso (400 families in Las Unidas, El Cuatro, Los Treinta and El Uno).
The current IFRC Appeal coverage stands at 268,661 Swiss francs (CHF), which represents 12 per cent of the overall budget of 2,281,136 CHF. Due to this, the operation is focused in prioritizing activities in disaster risk reduction and in water, sanitation and hygiene promotion. It is important to highlight that there is a significant funding gap and we encourage partners to hold discussions with the PRD and technical units to discuss options and work to meet the objectives set.