El Salvador

Humanitarian Aid for the victims of floods and disaster events in El Salvador


Location of operation: EL SALVADOR
Amount of Decision: EUR 2,000,000
Decision reference number: ECHO/SLV/BUD/2006/01000

Explanatory Memorandum

1- Rationale, needs and target population.

1.1 - Rationale:

Floods affected Central America at the beginning of October 2005, causing a humanitarian emergency particularly in El Salvador which continues to impact on the local population. Floods, landslides, tremor and avalanches of boulders were triggered by Hurricane Stan, with rainfall of more than 700mm in five days and the eruption of the Ilamatepec volcano, in Santa Ana. Hurricane Stan hit El Salvador and neighbouring Guatemala with wind speeds of 130 km/h and led to more than 1,500 deaths and widespread damage in both countries.

In El Salvador, directly after the floods, some 250,000 people(1) were displaced and 32,000 people had to be accommodated temporarily in public facilities. El Salvador ranks 105 out of 175 countries in the UNDP's Human Development Index(2) and according to the GINI Index of the World Bank, it is amongst the 20 countries with the most striking internal inequalities. The quasi-inexistence of access to land contributes to an increasing impoverishment of the vulnerable population. The coping capacity of the population has suffered already from the civil war between 1961 and 1989 and previous catastrophes. Hurricane Mitch and two earthquakes hit El Salvador in 2001. Nearly 25% of all private homes in the country were either destroyed or badly damaged, and 1.5 million people were left without housing. The country, with 6.7 million inhabitants, is earthquake prone as six tectonic plates are located in the vicinity. On 7 October 2005, El Salvador was hit by an earthquake with an intensity of 6.2 on the Richter scale. Furthermore, the country has 27 active volcanoes.

In response to the hurricane and eruption in October 2005, DG ECHO(3) intervened in El Salvador immediately with a primary emergency decision of EUR 1.7 million, aiming at the provision of relief items for more than 30,000 victims. EUR 1.05 million out of this programme was donated to El Salvador, while the balance was utilized for Guatemala. Additionally, two projects funded under the subsequent emergency decision with an amount of EUR 400,000 targeted medical attention, food and water supply as well as sanitation provision in El Salvador.

Between 30 January and 3 February 2006, DG ECHO visited the country, discussed extensively with partners and other agencies and concluded that widespread humanitarian needs continue to exist. Having coordinated with the Member States' representatives in El Salvador, it can be stated that only a fraction of the aid required is available. Besides DG ECHO, relatively few other donors are operating in the country. A conclusive post STAN intervention from the Commission's side is therefore proposed with this decision.

1.2.- Identified needs:

The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) launched an assessment which concluded(4) that the damage amounts to USD355 million, with the housing sector being the most affected with USD 113 million. Some 30% of the housing stock of some municipalities has been damaged, and in addition 10% destroyed. In relative terms La Paz and San Vincente are the most affected departments. However, out of the 5,533 affected houses, in the whole country some 1,855 have been totally destroyed and 3,678 damaged. Many of the damaged houses however, cannot be repaired because they are built out of mud and/or the land on which they stood has been completely washed anyway.

The report also states that in order to avoid further waterborne diseases, interventions would be necessary. Many of the latrines were swept away and large strips of land have been contaminated with faecal coliform bacteria, posing a serious threat to the water supply of the local population.

The affected population, which is estimated at more than 72,000 people, is mostly made up of peasant farmers growing corn, beans, and sorghum. Family members jointly contribute to generate an average monthly income of USD 55, which corresponds to less than two dollars per day and per person. Many of those affected by Hurricane Stan are single mothers, with an average of 2.9 children under 11 years old. In addition to agriculture, women and children work as street vendors, placing great burdens on children's ability to attend school. Children over 12 years of age and adults are often poorly educated, with few opportunities to improve living conditions. In general, people lack knowledge of the risk factors surrounding natural disasters and expertise to cope with the impact.

More than three months after these catastrophes, some 4,992 people still live in 61 temporary communal shelters(5) such as schools and other public facilities. However, these schools are needed again for their original purpose and have to be vacated; but many of the displaced cannot return to their homes. Therefore, for thousands of children it was not possible to begin classes scheduled for 16 January. The Ministry of Education hopes the shelters in the Municipalities of La Libertad and in San Salvador will soon be vacated. Despite the fact that many shelter residents have been able to return to their homes, many of the remaining caseload will probably not be able to return for some considerable time, especially those who were living in the exclusion zone around the Ilmanatepec volcano, which remains active. Many of the communities are heavily dependent on fishing, coffee and agriculture, and their crops have been almost totally destroyed by incursions of salt water and volcanic ash. Many residents are subsistence farmers who rely on crops of corn beans and sorghum or the sale of animals to meet their basic needs. Long-term recovery activities will be necessary to ensure that these families have food and shelter and can pay school and medical costs.

1.3. - Target population and regions concerned:

This Decision will aim at the rehabilitation of housing, provision of water/sanitation provision, other integrated activities and disaster preparedness activities. At least 20,000 victims will benefit from this intervention; with more than half of the target group being children. Special needs of the elderly, handicapped and other vulnerable groups will be reflected in the selection criteria. Female-headed households, which make up between 30% and 55% of the population depending on the areas, will receive special attention.

The main focus of the programme funded under this Decision will be on rural areas and may include the departments of Santa Ana, La Libertad, Cuscatlan, La Paz, Sonsonate, Usulutan, Chalatenango and San Vicente, with consideration also of the urban problematic in San Salvador. The programme will be implemented mostly through self-help whereby the beneficiaries will be given the materials and the partners will supervise the quality standards and proper use. In cases where self help is not possible, such as handicapped or elderly people, DG ECHO's partners will organise community-based solutions. In general, specific measures will be taken to verify the availability of beneficiaries in order to ensure that the project does not undermine their coping strategies and their ability to continue with their incomegenerating or family subsistence activities. Particular attention will be given to female heads of household in order to ensure that their workload is not increased unreasonably and to ensure equal access to benefits. The rehabilitation of shelters will be done using relevant standards and policy papers, with a minimum of 3.5m² per beneficiary. Water and sanitation components will be an integral part of the programme. Where possible and relevant, partner organisations will develop risk reduction, disaster preparedness and mitigation activities with the affected communities. These may include measures to raise wells above flood levels, to encourage construction according to earthquake codes and to reduce soil erosion and floodwater flows through planting of trees.

1.4. - Risk assessment and possible constraints:

There are three major risk factors for this programme. Firstly, during the rainy season (usually May-November) the weather could seriously affect the ability of the partner organisations to implement their projects including the capacity of suppliers to deliver in a timely manner. Furthermore, there is also a possibility that a "La Niña" weather phenomenon strikes in 2006, which could lead to the occurrence of further disaster events in the region. Secondly the self help of the target group could become unavailable, especially because of hurricanes that have intensified in recent years. Thirdly, municipal elections will take place during the third week of March, which could threaten previous commitments of the local authorities in power regarding properties and land ownership.


(1) 2005 Archive of the Dartmouth Flood Observatory: http://www.dartmouth.edu/~floods/Archives/2005sum.htm
(2) UNDP HDI 2004
(3) Directorate General for Humanitarian Aid - ECHO
(4) Assessment of ECLAC November 2005