Oxfam responds to floods and mudslides wreaking havoc in El Salvador

By mhart

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Following a severe tropical depression in El Salvador, 34 people are dead and over 55,000 are living in 638 shelters. Intense rainfall has battered Central America for more than a week, wreaking havoc across the region. International humanitarian organization Oxfam is proving emergency assistance in El Salvador to help combat the dangerous floods and mudslides resulting from the rain.

“Oxfam, together with local partner organizations trained in emergency response, is working quickly to reach the communities most endangered by the ongoing storms in El Salvador,” said Enrique García, Oxfam’s Humanitarian Coordinator in El Salvador. “We will continue to respond in the coming days and weeks as assessments are made about the extent of the damage and lives affected.”

On Tuesday, October 11, the Salvadoran Civil Protection System declared an orange alert for the coastal and mountainous regions of the country. By Friday, October 14, President Mauricio Funes declared a state of emergency for all of El Salvador. This allows the President to use available resources within the country to respond to the emergency, but also to call on the assistance of international donors. 

So far, more than 19,000 homes have been affected, most of which were flooded. In addition, 879 landslides and mudslides have been counted and at least 123 rivers have burst their banks. Estimations are that 40 percent of this year’s harvest has already been lost. 

Poor territorial planning and deforestation contribute to El Salvador’s susceptibility to heavy rain damage, but the real danger to human life stems from the vulnerability of poor communities.

“It’s not just the heavy rain that is causing the disaster; it’s the vulnerable circumstances people live in,” said García. “In many cases, people living in poverty don’t have any other option than to live in areas prone to flooding. Or they are forced to live in remote areas with poor access roads, which cause them to be cut off from essentially supplies during landslides.”

Oxfam is responding with emergency water, sanitation, and hygiene services. So far, Oxfam, with prepositioned materials, has installed nine water tanks, donated four big stoves in shelters, and distributed hygiene kits (soap, toothpaste and toothbrush, sanitary napkins, diapers, towels, detergent) and kitchen kits (big pots, plates, cups, and utensils), reaching more than 5,000 people. Together with local partners, Oxfam will continue response in these areas over the coming days and weeks, expecting to reach tens of thousands more people.