500,000 homeless in El Salvador

Published: 24 January 2001

Some 500,000 people have been left homeless by the earthquake which hit El Salvador on January 13, according to a comprehensive damage and needs assessment conducted by the Salvadorean Red Cross and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

More than 180,000 houses have been damaged, some 75,000 of which are completely destroyed. The disaster directly affected over one million people or one in six Salvadoreans. The International Federation today launched an appeal for 5.4 million Swiss francs for the provision of assistance to more than 150,000 people who have been displaced by the disaster.

The Salvadorean Red Cross will provide for the basic needs and/or resettlement of 30,000 families in the departments of Sonsonate, Ahuachapan, Cuscutlán, San Miguel, Santa Ana, La Libertad, La Paz, Usulutan, San Vicente and San Salvador.

Red Cross is also taking responsibility for the management of the "Cafetalon" shelter in Santa Tecla, near the capital San Salvador - the largest shelter in the country and currently home to some 4,200 people. Around the country the Red Cross is distributing food and items such as hygiene articles, kitchen sets and bed sets.

Mobile Red Cross water and sanitation teams will focus on the cleaning of some 1,200 wells in the coastal area and also on setting up water tanks and organising water distribution for more than 25,000 people in the Sonsonate region.

"Those living in precarious conditions in temporary and makeshift shelters are especially vulnerable to outbreaks of dengue fever, malaria and diarrhoeal diseases." said Dr. Fidel Font Sierra, Senior Health Officer for the International Federation. Mobile community health brigades will be formed to focus on prevention and early treatment of communicable diseases, health promotion and epidemiological surveillance.

Salvadorean Red Cross volunteers had received training in psychological support prior to the earthquake. These skills will be further reinforced and teams will begin immediately working with the affected population.

"We are heartened by the great work which has been done by the Salvadorean Red Cross in response to this disaster, "said Mr. Santiago Gil, Head of the Americas Department of the International Federation. Within minutes of the earthquake Red Cross rescue teams were mobilized to affected areas. Since then, more than 2,200 Red Cross volunteers have been active around the country in search and rescue, first aid, emergency food distribution and damage assessment. During the emergency phase of the earthquake relief operation, the first seven days following the disaster, more than 60,000 people benefited from Red Cross help. For further information, or to set up interviews, please contact:

Denis McClean, Head, Press Service, Geneva
Tel.: +41 22 730 4428

Christopher Black, Information Officer, Geneva
Tel.: +41 22 730 4377   Tel.: +41 79 416 3881

Christoffer Wiik, FACT Team Member, El Salvador
Tel: +503 865 1329