Learn more about specific causes in El Salvador that you can get involved in.
EnvironmentEl Salvador faces many environmental problems due to limited regulations and lack of education about environmental awareness. In light of widespread poverty and civil strife, the government has prioritized economic growth and political stability in recent years.1 Closely linked with the problem of water is the problem of deforestation. Forest cover has largely been destroyed and has made land and water sources more vulnerable to desertification.2 Another legitimate environmental concern is El Salvador’s vulnerability to natural disasters like earthquakes, volcanoes, and floods.3 Additionally, the country’s natural water supplies are frequently corrupted by pollutants from factories and inadequate waste disposal.4
FamilyDomestic abuse and violence against women are rampant problems in El Salvador. Two-thirds of reported sexual crimes are committed against children under the age of 18. Rates of child marriage contribute to the rising rates of domestic abuse.1 6% of girls in the country are married by age 15 and 26% are married before or by age 18.2 El Salvador has been consistently ranked as one of the most deadly countries for women. Seven out of every 10 women that is sexually or violently attacked is under the age of 20. Officials believe that a major contributor to the levels of violence against women is the amount of gang activity.3
Human RightsThe greatest human rights violations in El Salvador include the use of extrajudicial force, and discrimination against women and migrants.1 While amnesty was granted for human rights violations committed by authorities, continued impunity is considered to be a major issue. More recently, the pressing matter of unaccompanied children immigrating to the United States has become a human rights concern.2 There were around 3,400 reported homicides reported in the first six months of 2016, compared to 3,500 total reported in 2015. This is attributed mainly to an increase of gang violence in the country.3
EducationThe largest challenges to the El Salvadoran education system are the poor overall quality of education, the limited access to educational facilities, under-resourced educational facilities, and school desertion due to students joining gangs or the workforce.1 Additionally, chronic malnutrition, which affects 25% of El Salvador’s children, makes it more difficult for children to be productive and alert in school.2 One of the struggles the government faces is the low enrollment rates for secondary education (grades 7-9). Only 50-60% of children continue on to grades to secondary education. Often the cost of uniforms and supplies is too high, which leads to children dropping out of school.2 The country’s literacy rate is 88%.3
PovertyRoughly 35% of the population of El Salvador lives in poverty. Income inequality and limited earning potential are exacerbated by limited educational opportunities, poor access to healthcare, and natural disasters.1 Each of these factors place additional strain on tight budgets and can force individuals living on the brink of poverty into complete poverty. The country is largely dependent on foreign aid, with the largest supplier of this aid being the United States. This presents dangers to the country as it renders El Salvador vulnerable to shocks in both its domestic economy and foreign economies.2 The country’s unemployment rate is at 6.3%.3
ReligionEl Salvador’s constitution provides for the protection and preservation of religious freedom. Furthermore, there are additional provisions stipulating there shall be no discrimination based on race, nationality, gender, or religious affiliation. The constitution does, however, require that leaders of the government such as the president, cabinet ministers, supreme court justices, and others be laypersons.1 Census data reveals that 50% of El Salvadoran citizens identify as Roman Catholics, 36% identify as Evangelical Christians, and 14% claim no religious affiliation.2
Clean WaterWhile El Salvador has substantial natural water resources, large portions of the country’s natural water sources are contaminated by fecal matter and pollutants. Many industries do not monitor the pollutants they emit into lakes and streams. It is estimated that over 500 children per year die as the result of poor water quality.1 94% of the population has access to improved water sources. Only 75% of the population has access to improved sanitation facilities.2 The country is nearing the indicators that would name it a “water-stressed” country, but this problem is exacerbated by the fact that private companies can use unlimited water without regard for the effect on local communities.3
EconomyEl Salvador’s economy struggles with corrupt political interference, the aftereffects of natural disasters, and income inequality.1 While the judiciary is independent, it is susceptible to corruptive influence and few crimes are prosecuted when high-ranking officials are involved.2 Natural disasters, particularly earthquakes, have been particularly detrimental to the functioning of the economy, as businesses must expend extra resources to rebuild or restore capital, and individuals may have additional household and transportation expenses in the wake of a natural disaster.3 Furthermore, approximately 35% of El Salvadorans live below the poverty line. The unemployment rate is at 7%.4
GovernmentThe Republic of El Salvador is a presidential republic. The government is marked by widespread corruption. Public officials rarely face consequences for crimes they allegedly commit. Additionally, the justice system, while independent, is vulnerable to corruptive influence and obstructionism. Violent crime is also undermining the efficacy of the government and the economy.1 Transparency International ranks the country 95th out of 176 countries, and the Salvadoran people score their government 36 out of 100.2
HealthIn light of natural disasters, pollution, poor water quality, and widespread poverty, El Salvador’s citizens face a number of health risks exacerbated by environmental conditions and a lack of access to healthcare. It is estimated that 78% of El Salvadorans do not have public or private health insurance, and nearly 42% of citizens face limitations in accessing health care. Anemia, chronic malnutrition, and stunted growth have alarmingly high prevalence among young children, and obesity is widespread among adults.1 The average life expectancy in El Salvador is 72 years of age.2 The maternal mortality rate is 54 deaths for every 100,000 live births, and the infant mortality rate is 17 deaths for every 1,000 live births.3
ChildrenDue to extreme poverty and civil strife in El Salvador, children face many obstacles to their development such as malnutrition, limited access or ability to attend schools, limited access to health facilities, and gang activity. Approximately 25% of all El Salvadoran children under the age of 5 are chronically malnourished.1 Furthermore, gang activity and youth violence have reached dangerous levels. Worsening conditions have spurred many adults to send their children to the United States in order to protect them from the violence.2 Child labor is also a threat to children’s well being in El Salvador, and approximately 6% of children ages 5 to 14 are involved in the labor force. Over 8,000 children are used to harvest sugarcane and coffee and are exposed to long Read More workdays, toxins, and injuries from sharp knives and machetes.3 Show Less
AnimalsEl Salvador is part of the Neotropical region on the Pacific Coast. There are over 200 species native to this area, and around 70 are threatened or endangered. El Salvador is home to some of the most important nesting grounds for birds like the white-fronted parrot and yellow-naped parrot. Some major threats to the region include deforestation and the degradation of the soil due to pollution from fertilizers and mismanagement of industrial waste.1
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