For over 50 years, USAID has worked together with the government and people of El Salvador to strengthen democracy, improve education and health, and expand broad-based economic growth.

Below is a summary of some key accomplishments.

Democracy and Governance

USAID has been a traditional supporter of Salvadoran transparent, free and fair elections, including support for observer programs, electoral reforms and processes, an automated registration system, an automated vote counting system, voter awareness and training, and voter identification cards. USAID played a direct role in the establishment and strengthening of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal and helped El Salvador establish a new electoral code, which was part of the reforms agreed to in the Peace Accords of 1992. USAID supported the establishment of the National Citizen Registry.

USAID financed the development of the Citizen Identity Card (Documento Único de Identidad, DUI), which is used for all transactions and voting, and produced the first 937,500 cards.

Programs were implemented for municipal strengthening and decentralization of decision making, and to strengthen the ability of municipal governments to raise and manage funds. USAID also helped establish a number of local foundations and organizations and the union movement. USAID has provided the Government of El Salvador significant assistance to strengthen justice sector institutions.   USAID helped establish the Justice Sector Coordinating Commission and the National Council of the Judiciary and has provided technical assistance to the Ministry of Justice, the Attorney General’s Office, the Supreme Court and the Public Defender’s Office and supported the initial efforts of the Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office. USAID provided assistance for the drafting and passage of a modern criminal procedures code and for the creation of 26 mediation centers nationwide. USAID also helped improve security through a community policing program and the development of community-based crime and violence prevention activities.   

Under the current Democracy and Governance portfolio, USAID continues to work closely with the Salvadoran government to strengthen the criminal justice system, ensure government accountability, and reduce community crime and violence. 


Most of USAID’s $160 million in health was directed towards reducing infant, child, and maternal mortality. Through direct support for health services, training of public health providers, provision of hospital and clinical equipment, and construction of hospitals and clinics, and capacity building in local health related NGOs, mortality rates dropped dramatically.

Combined infant and child mortality dropped from 191/1000 in 1960 to16/1000 by 2008, according to the National Demographic and Health Survey.  USAID’s support for family planning resulted in one of its most dramatic success stories. In the 1960s and 70s, the total fertility rate was as high as 6.3 live births per woman. Contraceptive prevalence in 1973 was only 21 percent. USAID’s contribution to family planning services has helped El Salvador decrease its fertility rate to 2.3, and the contraceptive prevalence rate increased to 73 percent in 2008. 

USAID played a key role in the eradication of malaria in El Salvador. Morbidity from malaria decreased from 1,182 cases in 1998 to 49 in 2006, but is considered to be virtually eliminated as a health threat today. In comparison, in 1952 the mortality rate from malaria was 70/100,000.


In 2009, USAID began phasing out health assistance by concentrating on building the institutional capacity of health care partners.  Fiscal Year (FY) 2012 was the last year of health funding in El Salvador. Support focused on the Ministry of Health’s integration of maternal and child interventions with family planning and reproductive health activities, increasing the quality and access to services for women and children. Through 2013, USAID strengthened the national response to HIV/AIDS assistance and has contributed to improving the quality and use of HIV-related services. 

USAID has supported basic education since the 1960s. Net primary school enrollment has increased from the 1960s to 86.7 percent in 2004, and to 94 percent in 2011 (UNESCO).  Adult literacy had increased to 80.6 percent in 2004 and to 84.5 percent in 2010 (UNESCO). USAID has provided support for teacher training, curriculum development, textbooks, school construction and reconstruction, educational television, and to develop a national system to account for all resources dedicated to the education sector. Although in the past USAID focused on basic primary education, from 2013 forward, USAID programs will target educational opportunities for lower, secondary education students (grades 7-9) and out-of-school youth in high crime municipalities and higher education.

Economic Development

USAID played a key role in keeping El Salvador’s economy moving during the war years and during the transition from war to peace, building or rehabilitating 415 km of roads, 114 bridges, and 4,476 repairs to the electrical grid. USAID provided electricity for Eastern El Salvador through a back-up generator as well as ensuring power to essential service providers like hospitals.

Over the 1980-1991 period, USAID supported or leveraged economic reform programs including trade liberalization, elimination of interest rate controls, introduction of a value-added tax, rationalization of electricity fees, strengthening the financial system, supporting privatization of five commercial banks, and improving public sector accountability by upgrading financial management and auditing systems.

As early as 1965, USAID supported tax reform to improve tax administration and compliance. In the years that USAID has supported tax reform administration, tax collections have increased dramatically. From 2004 to 2014, collections grew from six percent to 14.9 percent of GDP. Increased revenues have enabled El Salvador to finance essential social and productive sector investments.

Through the assistance provided by USAID Tax Administration Programs, yearly tax revenues rose from six percent of GDP in 2004 to 14.9 percent of GDP in 2014

From 2012 onward, USAID has continued to work with the Governmnet of El Salvador to improve the business climate to expand economic opportunities. USAID has supported the productive sector through improved financial services, beginning with micro-finance programs in the 1980s, creation of the Micro-Finance Support Center, the introduction of village banking and development of savings and loans cooperatives. More recently, USAID supported promotion of the Development Credit Authority (DCA) to share the risk of loans to small and medium enterprises. Banks now are organized in special units to serve small and medium business clients. 


U.S. assistance to the agriculture sector began in 1951 through a technical assistance program with the Ministry of Agriculture (MAG).  Since the onset of USAID assistance, substantial investment has been made in crop and animal production, research and extension services. This includes:  the identification and dissemination of higher yielding crop varieties and promotion of non-traditional agricultural exports; expansion of agricultural credit; improvement of livestock, feed and milk production; promotion of soil conservation and adoption of irrigation technology; broad institutional development and capacity building at the National Agriculture and Technology Center, the National School of Agriculture, and the Department of Agronomy at the University of El Salvador.

USAID has funded a series of programs supporting land reform. In the 1960s and 1970s farmers received title to 1,041 parcels of land. Another 1,347 families received 14,000 acres. In all, over 36,000 ex-combatants received land, including land titling, technical assistance and credit through USAID interventions.

Disaster Response

USAID has been one of the major donors in supporting El Salvador after major and minor natural disasters, including earthquakes in 1965, 1986 and 2001, Hurricane Mitch in 1998 and Tropical Storm Ida in 2009. USAID’s provision of over $500 million of predominantly reconstruction assistance, but also mitigation and preparedness support, has enabled El Salvador’s economy to continue to grow despite these challenges.  Perhaps USAID’s most impressive results followed the 1986 and 2001 earthquakes when USAID reconstructed 75,958 houses, over 3,000 classrooms, and hundreds of water systems, municipal buildings and other infrastructure.  With the Tropical Storm Ida funds, USAID supported the reconstruction and rehabilitation of two bridges, seven schools and one clinic in the areas most affected by Tropical Storm Ida. USAID is also implementing activities to increase the capacity of communities working with local and central government to prepare for and mitigate disasters.

Institutional Strengthening 

One of USAID’s greatest achievements is its dynamic role in the formation of key institutions essential for democratic governance and socio-economic development.  USAID played a direct role in the establishment and strengthening of the Salvadoran Foundation for Economic and Social Development (FUSADES), an economic think-tank; the Business Foundation for Educational Development (FEPADE); and a number of other local organizations.  Today, these are key organizations that are actively involved in providing independent analysis and oversight and solutions to the major problems confronting the country .USAID established the Enterprise for the Americas Fund-El Salvador (FIAES) in 1993, as a mechanism to pardon a portion of El Salvador's external debt, through investments in conservation and child survival activities. Activities have strengthened financial and export promotion institutions and helped create financial services for exporters and increased access to financial services and training for micro and small enterprises.

USAID co-founded in 1983 FUSADES (the Salvadoran Foundation for Economic and Social Development) with the mission of “To be a think tank and research center with high credibility that promotes economic and social progress of all Salvadorans, through sustainable development, in a system of democracy and individual liberties.” FUSADES with USAID support produced the 1986 Export Expansion Act, the 1988 Foreign Investment Act, the 1990 Reactivation Export Act, and transitioned the San Bartolo Free Zone into a thriving export oriented industrial zone.

In addition, USAID has been a significant donor in supporting Salvadoran government ministries and other public institutions in a variety of sectors including agriculture, environment, economy, education, planning, health, public works, housing, finance, the judiciary and public security.  Support was provided for the establishment and strengthening of the Technical Secretariat of External Finance, created in May 1983, the Mayors’ Association, and the Social Investment Fund for Local Development, among others.

During the early to mid-1990s, USAID invested several million dollars to support the reform of El Salvador’s legal and institutional framework related to financial management and auditing. Activities addressed modernization needs in the areas of accounting, treasury and budgeting on the Executive Branch side and external auditing on the Court of Accounts side. Several important results were achieved as a consequence of the USAID support, including a constitutional reform, a new integrated financial administration law, a new organic law governing the audit function in the public sector, and a significant amount of training. USAID continues to work with the Court of Accounts to strengthen its auditing capabilities. 

Building on Past Achievements

In 2014, the governments of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador announced the Alliance for Prosperity, a strategic plan to create greater economic opportunities, improve security and access to justice and to strengthen government institutions in the three countries to reduce illegal migration to the United States.  El Salvador also developed a security plan for the country that prioritizes 50 of the highest crime municipalities. USAID’s assistance program to El Salvador recognizes that the security and economic growth of the Central American region impact the U.S.  In alignment with U.S. foreign policy goals of prosperity, security and good governance, USAID programs support the Alliance for Prosperity and El Salvador’s security plan to reduce illegal migration.