El Salvador’s improved health statistics and per capita gross domestic product reflect the country’s progress. El Salvador continues to demonstrate social and economic resiliency in the face of significant challenges–including effects of the global economic crisis in late 2008 and a recent natural disaster.
As a net importer of fuel and food, El Salvador was hit hard by record food and fuel prices. Additionally, over half of El Salvador’s trade is with the United States and, as a result of the U.S. economic downturn, Salvadoran exports dropped by 22 percent. Also, the country experienced heavy rainfall in November 2009. The resulting floods and mudslides affected much of the nation and put further strain on government resources. Many lives were lost, people displaced, and cropland, farm equipment and livestock destroyed. The U.S. Government, through USAID and the U.S. military, provided immediate humanitarian assistance and continues to work with the Government of El Salvador (GOES) on medium and long-term recovery efforts.
El Salvador has made many development gains. Until the economic crisis, the economy had grown at a steady rate and had even exceeded expectations. Factors that contributed to this growth include increased coffee, sugar and non-traditional exports; family remittances and tourism income; and new investments in services. As further evidence of the country’s progress, the GOES signed a five-year, $461 million anti-poverty compact with the Millennium Challenge Corporation.
Despite these gains, the country continues to face daunting impediments to development, such as high levels of rural poverty, vulnerability to natural disasters, and an economy that falls short of providing a sufficient number of employment opportunities to keep the population gainfully employed. Additionally, El Salvador also has one of the region’s highest homicide rates, largely attributable to gangs. There is also broad consensus that another critical challenge is the one of reducing political polarization.
USAID programs in El Salvador endeavor to create economic opportunities, promote a more transparent and efficient judiciary, support government accountability, and improve quality and access to basic health care and education. USAID also supports the GOES’ efforts in combating gangs through activities to support at-risk youth. To achieve all these results, USAID actively builds public-private alliances to sustain program efforts.
GOVERNING JUSTLY AND DEMOCRATICALLY
USAID’s governing justly and democratically programs help restore the rule of law and citizen confidence in the justice system and state institutions in El Salvador. USAID supports reforms to improve the criminal justice system and stimulate more effective community partnerships with business and government to prevent crime and offer youth alternatives to gangs. The program also helps increase the use of alternative dispute resolution to reduce congestion in the formal judicial system. Government ethics and anti-corruption programs also promote greater transparency, accountability and more responsive governance. USAID’s Community-Based Crime and Violence Prevention Project assists communities to find tailored solutions to combat risk factors that could lead to youth joining gangs.
USAID works with the GOES and the private sector to increase trade, support job creation, and promote economic opportunities for small and medium businesses, as well as to support successful implementation of the Partnership for Growth under the Presidential Policy Directive on Global Development.
The program fosters laws and policies that promote trade and investment such as sound fiscal policy needed to increase government revenues' social investments. Trade capacity building activities increase productivity and efficiency of small and medium enterprises. In addition, the program supports 50 municipalities to increase their levels of competitiveness by improving the capabilities of municipal staff, supporting mayors in promoting economic activity, and fostering alliances with the private sector as well as among municipalities.
Through a new, short-term program, USAID assists vulnerable populations severely affected by the global financial crisis. The program will provide conditional cash transfers; temporary employment primarily targeted to youth and women; and expanded vocational training opportunities.
INVESTING IN PEOPLE
The health program focuses on improving maternal child and infant health through expanded outreach to poor areas. This program will end in FY 2013. Beginning in FY 2012, USAID will no longer allocate funding for this program. Education programs will help improve educational outcomes for lower secondary school students, and increase access to educational opportunities for in-school and out-of-school youth in targeted municipalities with high crime rates.
U.S. assistance will continue to promote partnerships between Salvadoran and United States higher education institutions to improve curricula and provide scholarships to at-risk youth. Assistance will also continue to work to increase local capacity to plan, manage and evaluate the quality of higher education programs in high-risk communities and to provide relevant educational opportunities for out-of-school youth.
USAID’s program also works to reduce HIV transmission among high-risk groups by promoting behavior change.
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Last updated: May 10, 2013