El Salvador: Red Cross supports communities before, during and after disasters
Rosa Cándida is a farmer from Las Maravillas village on the outskirts of Ahuachapán, western El Salvador. She and her husband, two daughters and two young granddaughters live off the land—growing maize, beans and sorghum in the lush countryside close to their home.
In stark contrast to the idyllic setting, in recent years, Rosa has seen tropical storms, landslides, heavy rains and earthquakes devastate her country.
El Salvador is the smallest country in Central America, but it faces big disaster and climate-related risks. In 2022, Rosa was one of more than 1.7 million people who needed some form of humanitarian assistance or protection in the country due to disasters.
An earthquake in January of this year damaged her home, creating big cracks in its mudbrick walls and forcing her family to sleep outside while they found the money needed to repair it.
Half a day’s farming only generates just enough income for Rosa to feed her family for the day, meaning disasters like the earthquake have a drastic impact on her family’s finances and wellbeing.
Thankfully, help arrived in the form of the Salvadoran Red Cross. Their teams quickly conducted an earthquake damage assessment and provided cash assistance to more than 600 families in the region—including Rosa’s.
“Support from the Red Cross reached us and helped us buy food, medicines and other household items," she says.
Red Cross teams completed two cash transfers, making sure the money got to the people who needed it most:
"We prioritized households which were the most heavily affected by the earthquake and which included older people, pregnant women, nursing mothers and children under five," explains Fatima Evora from the Salvadoran Red Cross.
Cash assistance is one of many ways in which the Salvadoran Red Cross is helping local communities across the country to prevent, prepare for, and respond to disasters. Their volunteers have also been setting up early warning systems to prepare communities for droughts and floods, as well as helping people to adopt climate-smart livelihoods.
And as part of the Programmatic Partnership between the IFRC, National Societies, and the European Union, the Salvadoran Red Cross organized community workshops earlier this year so people could learn about their disaster risks and know how to prepare.
“We learned that there are green, yellow, orange and red alerts, and that each one indicates a different level of risk. We can be prepared and warn people via megaphones to evacuate and seek help,” says Juana Santa Maria, who attended a workshop in San Luis Herradura.
“The most valuable thing has been to know that, as a community, we are able to seek help from the mayor's office, community development associations and civil protection personnel. Today we have more information to prepare for and respond to disasters,” she adds.
In 2022, we reached 3,000 people in El Salvador through the Programmatic Partnership with the European Union.
Implemented by 24 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies around the world—including in Panama, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Ecuador in the Americas—the Programmatic Partnership helps communities to reduce their risks and be better prepared for disasters and health emergencies.
With the coordination of the Spanish Red Cross, Italian Red Cross and Norwegian Red Cross and support from the IFRC, the Salvadoran Red Cross is:
Building community knowledge
Providing assistance to people on the move
Preventing and responding to health outbreaks
Ensuring community perceptions and concerns are taken into account and used to improve their humanitarian assistance
Mexico & Central American migration crisis
Since the beginning of 2022, there has been a massive increase in the number of refugees, migrants, and returnees in transit by land northwards through Central America. People are mostly moving through irregular channels, and along the way face bureaucratic barriers, suffer accidents and injuries, face extortion and sexual violence or disappear and are separated from their families. Tragically, others are killed or die from diseases or the harsh environmental conditions. This Emergency Appeal supports the Red Cross Societies of Panama, Costa Rica, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico to scale up humanitarian assistance and protection to 210,000 people along migratory routes.
| Press release
Launch of ambitious partnership between IFRC and EU: a new model for the humanitarian sector
Brussels/Geneva, 30 March 2022 - An ambitious partnership between the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (DG ECHO) launched today aims to be a new model for the humanitarian sector.
In response to the increasing number of crises arising worldwide, the pilot Programmatic Partnership “Accelerating Local Action in Humanitarian and Health Crises” aims to support local action in addressing humanitarian and health crises across at least 25 countries with a multi-year EU funding allocation.
The partnership strengthens mutual strategic priorities and is built around five pillars of intervention: disaster preparedness/risk management; epidemic and pandemic preparedness and response; humanitarian assistance and protection to people on the move; cash and voucher assistance; risk communication, community engagement and accountability.
European Commissioner for Crisis Management, Janez Lenarčič said:
“I welcome with great hope the Pilot Programmatic Partnership with IFRC, a trusted EU partner who shares our vision of implementing efficient and effective humanitarian aid operations worldwide. The funding allocated for this partnership reaffirms the EU commitment to help meet the growing needs of vulnerable people across some 25 countries, in close cooperation with the Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies. It also confirms our commitment to strategic partnerships with humanitarian aid organizations.”
IFRC Secretary General Jagan Chapagain said:
“Longer-term, strategic partnerships are essential to respond to the escalation of humanitarian crises around the world. We must respond rapidly, we must respond at scale, and we must modernize our approach to make impact. We know that the most effective and sustainable humanitarian support is that which is locally led, puts communities at the heart of the action, and is resourced through flexible, long-term and predictable partnership. The pilot Programmatic Partnership allows exactly that.”
The Programme will begin with an inception phase in several countries in Latin America, West and Central Africa and Yemen. The main objective is to provide essential assistance to those currently affected by humanitarian crises, the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, climate-related disasters and conflict and to prevent loss of lives and suffering. Investment is also made to ensure communities are better prepared to cope with disasters through the implementation of disaster preparedness and risk reduction components.
Working closely with its National Societies, the IFRC’s global reach combined with local action, its long history of community-driven humanitarian work and its Fundamental Principles, make it the partner of choice for this Pilot Programmatic Partnership with the EU.
Following the first phase of implementation, the Programme aims to expand its reach and include additional countries around the world with the support of more EU National Societies.
The 10 countries of implementation in the inception phase are: Burkina Faso, Chad, Cameroon, Mali, Niger, Yemen, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Panama.
The seven National Societies from the EU working to support the implementation of the inception phase are: Belgian Red Cross (FR), Danish Red Cross, French Red Cross, German Red Cross, Italian Red Cross, Luxembourg Red Cross and Spanish Red Cross.
For more information
In Brussels: Federica Cuccia, [email protected]
In Geneva: Anna Tuson, [email protected], +41 79 895 6924
The Programmatic Partnership is an innovative and ambitious three-year partnership between the IFRC, many of our member National Societies, and the European Union. Together, we support communities worldwide to reduce their risks and be better prepared for disasters and health emergencies.
Salvadorean Red Cross Society
El Salvador: surviving amidst COVID-19 and the floods
Sandra couldn't sleep. It was the night of May 31st, the rain was falling in buckets from the sky and the wind was raging round the walls of the house. The storm Amanda was hitting the community La Anona in San Luis La Herradura in El Salvador. That same night the Comapa River had overflowed its banks and surrounding villages were flooded with water and mud. Among the houses affected was that of Sandra and her family. "That same night we had to go out in search of a place to stay," she said. " The water came into our house. It was completely flooded."
The next day, like thousands of families across the country, she moved to a nearby school that was being used as a temporary shelter. At the moment, there are 152 hostels opened by the National Government with about 5,400 beds.
Sandra finally returned to her homeland, but her home and livelihood are affected, and she is now facing a complex health situation. The current conditions make her more vulnerable amidst the context of COVID-19. "Before the floods, the situation was already very complicated with the pandemic. Many people in the community who live from street vending could not go out to sell," she said, while waiting her turn to receive food kits delivered by the Salvadorean Red Cross in her community. "We could no longer work the farmland and everything we had there was lost. Crops were lost, animals were lost, and now we have no income."
Since the beginning of the floods, the Red Cross has been involved in rescue work and delivery of humanitarian aid. At present, volunteers work directly with 30 hostels in the country and 5 reception shelters where they deliver hygiene and sanitation kits, as well as mattresses and blankets. They also work in communities highly affected by the floods. More than 1,000 volunteers have participated in these activities, and have been deployed to 10 departments in the country from the headquarters and different branches of the Salvadorean Red Cross. However, the closure of roads due to landslides has complicated the movement of Red Cross staff inland.
At the moment the rains have diminished in intensity, but the worst is yet to come. Thousands of families have lost their homes. Others are returning home; yet they are exposed to risks, such as landslides and unsafe conditions. "Many people in the community have the flu and the fever, and need to go to health centers to get tested for Covid-19." Sandra said. "Mosquitoes are everywhere and we are afraid that we will get dengue fever", she added.
As the waters recede, the risk of disease outbreaks begins to increase and those affected need food, psychosocial support, and access to water and sanitation. The Salvadorean Red Cross is developing a project to provide support in these areas. "Through this project, we will support three communities in the department of La Libertad", said Alex Valle, Director of Risk Management at the Salvadorean Red Cross.
The storm claimed thirty lives. Yet, it is only the first phase of the emergency. Recovery work involves a major effort to support populations that have been affected by the floods and COVID-19.
"This is the first time we have to face an emergency of this kind, but we will be there to do everything we can to provide support to affected people", Valle said.
| Press release
Dengue spreads across Central America, Red Cross scales up response
Panama/Geneva, 27 September 2019–-As dengue spreads rapidly across Central America, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is scaling up emergency assistance to help countries contain the mosquito borne viral disease.
In Honduras, more than 71,200 people have been affected by the disease making it the worst outbreak in the country’s history. Nearly one quarter of the cases reported were classified as severe dengue and more than 65 percent of the 128 deaths so far are children under 15.
Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Costa Rica are also reporting massive increases in dengue cases compared to previous years.
Dr Maria Franca Tallarico, Head of Health at IFRC’s Regional Office for the Americas said:
“Dengue is endemic across the Americas, but what is very concerning in this outbreak is that the majority of the cases and deaths are occurring in children under 15. This is due to a lack of immunity in young people to the deadliest of the four strains of dengue currently circulating in the region.”
A combination of seasonal rains and warming temperatures are being blamed for dengue’s rapid spread--creating more stagnant pools that are perfect breeding grounds for mosquitoes. There are rising concerns that this will make the outbreak will be harder to contain.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), rising global temperatures rainfall patterns linked to climate change could significantly modify vector-borne diseases and their effect on human populations—making epidemics more difficult to predict and control.
Teams of Red Cross volunteers in affected Central American countries have been supporting government efforts to slow the outbreak—providing door to door awareness raising about the disease and how to prevent it. With their unique access to affected communities, the Red Cross volunteers are helping to clean up mosquito breeding sites or accompanying health workers to identify cases.
Dr Tallarico said:
“The size of this outbreak is unprecedented across Central America. Dengue is a disease that affects the most vulnerable--those who live in places where there is poor sanitation and where mosquitoes thrive. But the disease can be contained if governments and communities work together to raise awareness, access medical care and clean up the environment. This is what the Red Cross teams across affected countries are focused on doing.”
The IFRC has launched a regional appeal seeking a total of 2.9 million Swiss francs to support the National Red Cross Societies in Central America to deliver assistance and support to 550,000 people for 12 months. The appeal will focus on community health, water and sanitation and promoting behaviours changes that prevent the decease.
Dengue cases have increased 30-fold over the last 50 years, according to the World Health Organization. As one of the world’s fastest growing diseases, dengue is endemic in 100 countries infecting up to50-100 million people a year.