Last updated 10 November 2009
The heavy rains that pummeled El Salvador on November 7 triggered deadly floods and landslides that have buried homes, collapsed bridges, and destroyed crops. By November 9, 130 people had died—many in a single devastating landslide—and more than 13,000 had fled to emergency shelters.
But it could have been worse. Oxfam and our local partners began helping communities prepare for this emergency long before it ever came to pass. Working in areas that are vulnerable to floods, landslides, and other hazards, our partners have helped villages form community-protection committees that they then provided with equipment and trainings in first aid, early-warning systems, shelter management, and evacuation planning. When the downpour began to signal danger, 71 Oxfam-supported community-protection committees swung into action and helped guide their people to safety.
Once in the shelter of schools and community buildings, many felt the impact of another Oxfam preparedness measure: a nearby warehouse stocked with essentials. Events like hurricanes and earthquakes that put communities at risk often damage and destroy the roads and bridges that connect them with outside help. The Oxfam warehouse, which is located in a hazardous region of the country, helped ensure that we could move emergency equipment to the shelters quickly and safely.
So when disaster struck, Oxfam aid reached three shelters in the hard-hit areas of Zacatecoluca, Melara, and Puerto La Libertad within hours of the arrival of displaced families. Industrial kitchen equipment and utensils and tanks of clean water helped ensure that there was food to eat and water to drink, and mattresses provided a measure of comfort.
Oxfam also quickly purchased materials for distribution, so other shelters in Zacatecoluca and San Salvador soon received deliveries of first aid kits, hygiene materials, and food, as well as pickaxes, wheelbarrows, and shovels to facilitate the clean-up effort around shelters.
Meanwhile, teams of staff and partners were fanning out across the affected areas to determine how best to meet the longer-term needs of those who have suffered the loss of homes and the means to make a living.
“Disaster preparedness can save lives and help alleviate suffering and economic losses,” says Oxfam America humanitarian response director Michael Delaney. “We hope our supporters will help us sustain and expand this program so we can continue to help communities and partners plan ahead.”
Read more about Oxfam’s preparedness work in El Salvador.
Donate now to Oxfam’s Global Emergency Response.