El Salvador is located on the Pacific Coast of Central America between Guatemala and Honduras. The terrain of El Salvador can be divided into three main regions: the tropical coastal belt on the Pacific, a central upland area of valleys and plateaus, and a mountainous north.
Most Salvadorans are Mestizo—people of mixed Amerindian and European heritage. Spanish is the official language, though some groups speak Nahua. Natural resources include hydropower, geothermal power, petroleum, and fertile farmland. More than 60 percent of people are employed in service occupations, and nearly one-third of adults are engaged in agriculture. Farm products include coffee, sugar, vegetables, cotton, shrimp, beef, and dairy products.
El Salvador’s recent history reflects both political and economic turbulence. In 1979, a civil war erupted and a military coup d’état resulted in a reformist military regime. Political instability and tragic violence followed for 12 years—resulting in nearly 75,000 deaths—and ended with a peace agreement in 1992.
Despite being the smallest country in Central America, El Salvador has the third largest economy. However, growth has been slow in recent years. Hurricane Mitch devastated the country in 1998, killing 200 and leaving 30,000 homeless. Earthquakes struck the nation in 2001, damaging 20 percent of the nation’s housing.
|El Salvador’s woes were further exacerbated when a drought beset the country that summer and destroyed 80 percent of the crops. In 2001, El Salvador adopted the U.S. dollar as its currency. The current government has pursued economic diversification, showing some success in promoting textile production, international port services, and tourism. It has made a commitment to opening the economy to trade and investment. El Salvador was the first Central American country to implement a free trade agreement (CAFTA) with the U.S. in March 2006.|
World Vision’s Work
World Vision began its work in El Salvador in 1975, initiating a child sponsorship program through five school projects. By the end of 1978, efforts had grown to include 25 projects with 3,828 sponsored children. That year a World Vision office was opened in San Salvador. During the period of 1975 to 1980, civil war erupted, resulting in political violence and widespread economic consequences. By the end of 1980, 7,000 civilians had died and another 3,000 were missing. Warring conditions caused the displacement of 40,000 people already suffering the effects of poverty. The closure of government offices and shortages of goods compounded problems.
Responding to natural disasters, relief efforts provided supplies, reconstruction, and rehabilitation throughout the 1980s and 1990s. World Vision focused on economic development by providing credit to families to establish businesses, helping children attend school, constructing houses, providing health care, promoting sustainable agriculture, and strengthening local churches.
World Vision in El Salvador Today
In partnership with communities, nine World Vision area development programs in El Salvador are bringing hope to children and families. Currently, nearly 25,000 girls and boys are benefiting from child sponsorship provided by U.S. donors. World Vision also continues to help families rebuild homes lost to earthquakes and hurricanes.