The SHARE Blog

As People Slowly Return Home, the Food Crisis Begins

October 24, 2011

On the surface, it seems things are returning to normal in El Salvador. The sun is out and shining. School is back in session. For the first time in two weeks, the front page of the papers is not a photo of someone wading through waist-deep water to safety.

Flood water remains in some communities

Director of Civil Protection Jorge Melendez estimated yesterday that 50% of evacuated people had returned home. Nationally, 209 schools are still being used as shelters. Those that remain in shelters do so because their homes are still full of water, as is the case in some communities along the coast, or because hills or mountains still threaten their communities with mudslides.

As people slowly begin to return home (visit our blog Wednesday for personal stories), some say the real emergency begins – the food crisis.

Initial estimates of the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAG) estimate that 98 million pounds of corn, 36 million pounds of beans, 22 million pounds of sorghum, and 9 million pounds of rice have been lost. This does not include the nearly one billion pounds of basic grains at risk. In terms of fruits and vegetables, the MAG predicts that up to 70% of national production has been lost. Read More »

The “Indirectly” Affected: Invisible Victims of Climate Change

Although their homes may not have flooded, although the rains may not have carried away or destroyed their material belongings, there are thousands of people throughout El Salvador that lost a great deal during the ten days of torrential rains that hit El Savlador from October 10-19. 

Agriculture workers and day laborers lost ten days of wages

For the majority of those who work in the informal sector, a day’s earning is what – literally – puts food on the table that evening.  If you don’t work, you don’t eat.  Agricultural workers, day laborers, informal sellers in the markets couldn’t work during the rain.  Silvia Maldinero, Women’s Coordinator at UCRES, a grassroots rural organization, explains that most women who work in the informal sector earn about $4 per day, nearly all of which goes to buy food for their families. After just a few days of heavy rains, people had gone through all of the rice, beans and corn they had saved up, and hunger spread.  

Estimates place work in the informal sector at around 50% of the working-age population of El Salvador. These are the men who walk the streets offering to fix shoes; or who fill pick-up trucks with fruits and vegetables to sell; the women who make tortillas on the side of the street; the fisherman who go out on small boats and sell their catch to market vendors; the mothers who fill baskets with typical foods or trinkets and walk from community to community, balancing their wares on their heads. Read More »

Communities Ravaged by Climate Change

October 21, 2011

“It’s like the war,” a young resident of Nueva Esperanza shares. “People will return to their communities with absolutely nothing. They’ll have to start over, just like when they came from Honduras.”In Central American, the October 2011 rains have taken the lives of 123, caused over a million people to evacuate, and destroyed homes, highways and extensive areas of crops and agriculture.

Assessing the Damage, Water Prevents Return Home

As the height of the emergency passes, the reconstruction begins.  The first step is to assess damages to homes, infrastructure, crops and livestock.  After a visit yesterday to the region, President Funes estimated that 70% of crops have been lost in El Salvador.

People will not know the extent of the damage until they are able to return to their communities, visit their fields, and find what livestock survived. As the water levels lowered on Thursday, the first people began to visit their communities to do asses the damage. In San Marcos Lempa, over 30 communities have lost water connection, making the task of removing mud from walls and floors impossible, and a return home still out of the question.

In San Carlos Lempa, the area closest to the coast remains flooded; communities like Rancho Grande, Taura, El Coyol and La Sabana are still under a few feet of water. Esmeralda Villalta, CRIPDES San Vicente Coordinator, reports that homes have been lost to the storm. Most people will have to stay in crowded, under-stocked emergency shelters until the water recedes.

The Mujeres Ganaderas report that in addition to crops and cattle, many of the supplies at their office and store were lost as the waters quickly rose over the weekend of October 15th and 16th.  With many people evacuated and those that remained trying to prepare their homes, Mugan President Santana and others were only able to carry some of their goods up to the second story.   
Read More »

Sonia’s Story from the Bajo Lempa

October 20, 2011

The flooded Lempa River

Heavy rains continue to pound down on crops, homes and spirits on Wednesday as accumulated rainfall and flooding reached record levels in communities near the Lempa River. Over 32,000 people have evacuated their homes to seek shelter in schools, churches and albergues. In San Marcos Lempa over 750 people are seeking refuge from rains and flooding worse than Hurricane Mitch. At least two more communities will be arriving to these shelters this evening as the river continues to rise.


Sonia Silva arrived at the Centro Escolar Miguel Dueñas, on Sunday after the shelter near her community of Nueva Esperanza (New Hope) flooded.  Sonia evacuated her home with her two young children on Saturday, and after one night in the shelter in Nueva Esperanza, was forced to evacuate again. Sonia’s husband, like many men in their community, stayed behind to guard homes and minimize damage but, with water levels now reaching the roofs, he arrived at the school yesterday, much to the relief of Sonia and her family.

Not everyone was as fortunate as Sonia’s family. Many people underestimated the severity of the flood and are now trapped between swelling rivers. Read More »

Tenth Day of Heavy Rain Pounds El Salvador

October 19, 2011

As torrential rains in El Salvador continue on this tenth day of record-breaking rain, evacuations continue and hopes of returning home seem far off.

As heavy rains continue, leaders like Alex Torres, President of UCRES, are concerned that the situation will continue to worsen: “The soil is saturated, and we think that more rain today will cause more damage than has happened in the past week.”

In the Balsamo Range, at least 375 people were evacuated in the middle of the night as a large crack in the mountainside formed, threatening a massive mudslide. Civil Protection has asked people to remain on high alert for mudslides; on Sunday night, five people were buried alive when a mudslide brought earth, rocks and trees on top of their homes in the municipality of Ciudad Arce, La Libertad.

Read More »

Communites Flooded, Isolated, Without Supplies in UCRES Region

As a nation-wide emergency wreaks havoc on the poorest and most vulnerable of El Salvador, communities in the UCRES region are once again affected by flooding rivers.  Non-stop rains since Monday, October 10th have caused the Lempa, Sucio and Acelhuate Rivers to breach their banks and rushing, contaminated water has damaged communities and their livelihoods.  

Bridge over the Sucio River Destroyed

Alex Torres, Pres of UCRES, is very concerned that today, with heavier rainfalls and saturated soil, the situation will worsen.  Apart from UCRES, there has been no support for communities affected.  

Evacuations began on October 12th, a mere two days after rains began to fall.  The communities of Berlin, las Garcitas, Potrero Grande and El Tule were the first evacuated, as families found themselves trapped between flooding Lempa and Acelhuate rivers in the municipality of El Paisnal.

Read More »

State of Emergency in El Salvador

October 17, 2011

Heavy rainfall in El Salvador and throughout Central America since Sunday, October 9th has claimed the lives of at least 32 people and forced over 20,000 people to evacuate their homes and communities to emergency shelters. Accumulated rain greater than during Hurricane Mitch in 1998 has caused hundreds of landslides and mudslides, closing roads, destroying bridges, and leaving many communities cut off. Up until a week ago, many farmers shared that this year would be their best harvest in years; much of this crop will now be lost, rotting in the fields. A state of emergency was declared on October 14th and continues today, with rain predicted to continue until Wednesday.

“The massive nature, extension and intensity of the phenomenon puts us to the test as a community, as a people,” President Funes said on national television and radio Sunday. Funes has repeatedly called for solidarity: “Only working together, united, hand-in-hand, will we be able to bring relief to the thousands of families who are victims.”

The Lempa River Double Normal Size

Although the national government response has been exceptional compared to past years—SHARE counterparts in the Bajo Lempa report that this is the first time representatives from national government institutions including the Ministry of Agriculture and Civil Protection have arrived to help—there is still urgent need for supplies, including food, drinking water, blankets and mattresses. Thousands of people were immediately forced to abandon their homes and communities, bringing with them only a few changes of clothing.

Read More »

Lives on the Line Against Mining in El Salvador

October 13, 2011

By Annette Becker, SHARE delegate June 2011

During a recent trip to El Salvador as part of a delegation from my parish, Good Shepherd, which is located in Shawnee, KS, the most powerful part of the trip for me (in a week of many intense experiences) was the visit to the Environmental Committee of Cabanas (CAC). It was a late addition to our itinerary that began with an inquiry from our leader regarding whether we felt comfortable going, as a member of the committee had recently been kidnapped and murdered for his work as an activist. He had been posting fliers announcing a meeting regarding concerns about the impact of proposed mining in the area. Some members of the group had a few questions regarding safety on this “out of the way” visit and we were each given a chance to respond. If even one person had concerns, we would not have made the trip to Ilobasco, Cabanas. Every single one of us responded that we wanted to do this, hoping that our presence would offer some support to those engaged in the struggle. I am so grateful that we did.

Read More »

A Delegate Reflection on Solidarity: Building Relationships, instead of Buildings

October 10, 2011

The following is a presentation given by St Patrick’s delegate, Theresa Edwards, as part of Global Solidarity Week. After their delegation to El Savlador and Nueva Trinindad, Chalatenango in July 2011, youth from St Patrick’s created this petition about mining.  

If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” These words of Lilla Watson, an Australian aboriginal activist, capture what I believe to be the true meaning of solidarity. We are all called, whether by our consciences, or by our Catholic faith, to be in solidarity with others in our global community.

A response to this calling came to me in the opportunity to participate in a youth delegation to my church’s sister parish of Nueva Trinidad in El Salvador this past July. I had been part of a previous delegation there when I was twelve, and it radically changed my global perspective. Then this year, the chance came up for me to go again, and it was an offer I couldn’t refuse.

Read More »

Fire with more Fire: Reflections on Living with Violence

September 26, 2011

The following is an excerpt of a longer article written by former SHARE staff Danny Burridge.  Today, Danny works at the María Madre de los Pobres Parish in La Chacra.

Sometimes we do a dinamica to help cultivate the kids’ creativity. We have one of them tell a story that includes actions, and as the kid is telling, the rest of us have to perform the actions as they come up. When it was Oscar’s turn he had us walking to the corner store to buy some queso fresco, chips and a two liter of Coka. Then Naomy took us staggering and gasping through the desert with no water to get to the United States. 

With Jonathan, we were just minding our own business, walking down the street outside the parish, when suddenly the soldiers rounded the corner, grabbed us and threw us up against the wall of the nearest house, shouted obscenities at us, kicked out our legs, hit us with the butts of their guns, and then searched us. They didn’t find anything but they thought we were gang members, so they kept us there, all of us, the 40 year old third grade teacher Deysi, our 17 year old drawing instructor Bryan, myself, and a smattering of 15 or so boys and girls between the ages of 9 and 13. We were left kneeling down on the mildly clean beige tiling of the Open School, sweating, our hands crossed on top of our heads, acting out the blows in the back, our faces embodying the submission, the humiliation, but stifling our laughter too. And Jonathan was there smiling intently, loving the sinister control he had, framed by posters of non-violence and pastel artwork on the walls, the fans whirring oh-so-slowly overhead.

And this is supposed to be part of the solution to the violence: that entire geographic zones be black-listed and militarized; that overwhelmingly good and honest people there be treated like criminals and thereby come closer to embodying the rage and violence of that criminalization; that the artisans of institutional violence (the soldiers) combat capitalism’s superfluous youth organized into networks of peripheral violence (the gangs).   Funes has acquiesced to the perverse logic of an inhuman system that convinces us that the only way to fight fire is with more fire. 

And so now we’re ablaze. 

Read on here.

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