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El Salvador, the smallest Central American country, has faced some of the region's greatest challenges.
Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, conflict and gang violence, plus epidemics have wreaked havoc on the Salvadoran people for decades. Save the Children has worked in El Salvador since 1979 – just prior to the onset of the country's 12-year-long civil war.
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Farm animals sustain families by keeping them fed and by providing income. As herds grow, families have potential to lift themselves out of poverty.
Donkeys allow families to pull carts, haul water and plow fields. With a donkey, families have a greater chance of a successful harvest.
With fish-farm training, a stock of baby fish, fishing pole, fishhooks, lines and fishing net, a family can feed themselves and start a business to escape poverty.
For less than 20 cents per day, a girl can receive the books, learning materials and school access needed to learn and thrive. The results are life changing.
Extreme rural poverty – living on less than $1 per day in shanties without running water or electricity – creates chronic problems for some of El Salvador's children. Too often, toddlers aren't read stories or taught to sing ABCs. Slow to speak and even play with toys, kids who grow up without early childhood development activities can be disadvantaged for life. That's why Save the Children supports programs for families like Delfia and her son Juan. Read their story.
Access to health and education services are limited, made worse by under-resourced institutions that struggle to meet basic technical and operational capacity. Violence plagues children in both urban and rural El Salvador. As families left rural villages after the Civil War, a generation was uprooted or brought up by extended family members. With little opportunity in the cities and growing school dropout rates, gangs and a child-trafficking crisis have emerged.
Located on the volcanic “Ring of Fire” and in the Hurricane Zone, children in El Salvador have suffered through more than their share of natural disasters.
Hard hit by fierce storms, makeshift dwellings are washed often away. Landslides and mudslides have killed hundreds of people in recent years. Among the most devastating disasters have been the 1986 and 2001 earthquakes, Hurricane Stan and the Santa Ana volcano in 2005, and torrential rains in 2009. These deadly natural disasters destroyed homes and livelihoods.
Save the Children's disaster relief efforts in El Salvador have provided survivors with water, blankets, diapers, children's clothing, toys and much more. We also created “Child Friendly Spaces” to help kids feel safe and get back to normal in the aftermath of a crisis or disaster. There, children can attend classes and take part in playing, art, sports, music and dance. To improve food security and incomes, we provided poor farming families with seeds, livestock, tools and temporary jobs with relevant projects. Read about our response to Tropical Storm Agatha in 2010.
Our programs have helped children and their families in many ways including health, education, emergency response and violence prevention initiatives. For example, 9 out of 10 children attending our early childhood development program successfully reached first grade.
Much progress has been made through the hard work of the Salvadoran people, as well as government agencies and charities. Child mortality – the number of boys and girls who die before their fifth birthday – has been reduced by almost half since 2000, at the same time, government institutions and civil society have been strengthened in their ability to protect children efficiently.
But even one child lost to preventable death is too many. At last account, one out of three children in El Salvador suffered from malnutrition. Half of El Salvador's rural children were so severely malnourished their growth was stunted – leaving many potentially disadvantaged for the rest of their lives.
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El Salvador Facts and Statistics
Unless otherwise noted, facts and statistics have been sourced from Save the Children's 2012 State of the World's Mothers report. You can access detailed data here.
Other sources as follows: Infant Mortality Rate: CIA World Factbook 2012; Life Expectancy at Birth: World Bank's World Development Indicators 2012; National Poverty Rate: World Bank's World Development Indicators 2012; Population: CIA World Factbook 2012; Human Development Index Rank: United Nations Development Program
Last Updated April 2014