Capacity Building, education, Public Health, solidarity, Youth Development

Education in Times of Covid-19

Socially speaking, El Salvador was already deteriorating before COVID-19 hit, owing to rising rates of poverty and extreme poverty, the persistence of inequalities and growing social discontent. In this context, the pandemic was to inevitably have a profoundly negative impact on various social sectors, particularly public health and education.

Even before the pandemic, VOICES has been working with rural schools and families in an attempt to radically improve the culture of learning throughout these regions, by identifying and addressing major gaps in educational outcomes. Since the pandemic began, we’ve been supporting initiatives that deploy distance learning modalities through a variety of formats and platforms (both on and off-line), while also supporting the mobilization of education personnel and students and helping these institutions stay equipped with the necessary biomedical resources to ensure the overall well-being of students and their families.
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Building a Dignified Learning Environment
Isla de Monte Cristo, Bahia del Jiquilisco
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In 1992, the Island of Monte Cristo was resettled by local farmers taking advantage of the postwar land transfer program. Today, the remote community contains acres of fruit trees, a handful of farming families, and hundreds of nesting birds.

Due to years of abandonment by both local and the national government, organizations like VOICES have been approached by local leaders to help them tackle specific issues like their lack of vital resources such as potable water and access to education.

Thanks in part to the generosity of South Bay Sanctuary Covenant, and the efforts of the islanders themselves in managing the logistics, the transportation of materials and the labor, their small school is in the middle of a complete makeover.

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Rural Mobile Technology Lab
Centro Escolar Amando Lopez, Bajo Lempa, Usulután
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The Mobile Tech Lab began in 2020, in response to the official closure of all Salvadoran educational institutions. Luckily for the kids, the Amando Lopez School staff have always been at the forefront of developing creative initiatives to entice students and keep communities learning.

The Lab is helping bridge the digital divide in the Bajo Lempa, by offering direct technology to students and computer skills to teachers. 112 students are currently taking part in the Lab, by attending in-person or virtual classes in communities Amando Lopez, La Canoa and 14th de Abril. The teaching staff continue to say that their goals are being accomplished through this program, goals such as keeping students and teachers connected, providing students the critical technological tools they need to succeed and strengthening the technical capabilities of the teachers.

It is also important to note that because of the school’s stringent biohealth approach, Amando Lopez has become a model for other institutions who wish to teach kids, during a global pandemic.

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Early Childhood Education Improvement
Bajo Lempa Preschools, Usulután
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Preschool teachers are critical agents of children’s social and emotional development, which in turn is a key predictor of their current and future academic and social success. Rural pre-schoools in El Salvador however are notorious for being left of the equation when it comes to government funding around paying dignified salaries, operational budgets, building infrastructures, etc.

For VOICES, it is important to support these institutions in their educational proceses by helping to supplement these shortcomings and offering them quality continuing education workshops with pedagogical professionals.

Recently, we worked with five different preschools in the Bajo Lempa to facilitate a series of highly interactive age and developmentally appropriate activities aimed at improving the methodological foundations of their curriculum and internal organizations.

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We want to reiterate our gratitude for our dear friends from South Bay Sanctuary Covenant of Northern California, St.John of God Church of San Francisco, the Carlos Rosario International school family in Washington D.C. and generous individuals and families who continue to understand the need for providing quality education in the middle of a pandemic. If it weren’t for each and everyone of you and the dedication and perseverance of our Salvadoran patterns, who knows how many bright young futures would be stifled and lost.

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Climate Change, Disasters, Environment, Food Security, human rights, Public Health, Water/Agua

EL DIA DE LA TIERRA

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earth day 2021 votb_esppCada 22 de abril se celebra el Día Internacional de la Tierra, ocasión oportuna para reflexionar sobre lo que está pasando a nuestro planeta y generar conciencia sobre la necesidad de cambiar drásticamente paradigmas y comportamientos individuales y colectivos que devastan la tierra.

La tierra es nuestra casa común que se formó hace aproximadamente 4,550 billones de años, su evolución hizo posible las condiciones para que surgiera la vida, unos mil millones de años después. La capa de ozono y el campo magnético terrestre bloquean la radiación solar dañina, mientras que la atmósfera retiene la energía solar suficiente para un clima y una temperatura idónea para la vida, así mismo el agua y la existencia de diversos procesos físicos y químicos hacen posible la vida de animales y vegetales, que interactúan en un equilibrio dinámico y sustentable.

La comunidad científica estima que en el planeta existen 8.7 millones de especies, de las cuales apenas han sido registradas 1.3 millones, lo que significa que aproximadamente el 86% de las especies terrestres y el 91% de las marinas aún no se conocen. La vida del ser humano depende de esta riqueza biológica; no obstante, el ser humano es la única especie que está provocando su extinción. Según la Unión Internacional para la Conservación de la Naturaleza, UICN 5.200 especies de animales vertebrados se encuentran en grave peligro de desaparecer.

Una de las razones principales de esta pérdida de especies es la deforestación, de acuerdo a la Organización de las Naciones Unidas para la Agricultura y la Alimentación, FAO entre los años 1990 y 2016 se han eliminado 129 millones de hectáreas de bosque, siendo la principal responsable la agricultura comercial a gran escala, que origina el 40% de la deforestación a nivel del planeta y el 70% en América Latina; la minería y la expansión urbana son otras de las causas importantes.

Aunado a la agricultura industrial está el uso indiscriminado de plaguicidas, en la actualidad se fabrican y emplean cada año unos 5,000 millones de toneladas de plaguicidas tóxicos, lo que repercute directamente en la contaminación de los ecosistemas y en la extinción de especies, como por ejemplo las abejas. Un análisis realizado a escala europea publicado por la organización Greenpeace señala que dos terceras partes del polen recolectado por las abejas está contaminado por insecticidas, acaricidas, fungicidas y herbicidas comercializados por las compañías Bayern, Syngenta y Basf. Lo que está provocando la muerte de millones de colmenas.

Las abejas son imprescindibles para la vida del ser humano, de acuerdo a la FAO, existen 100 especies de cultivos que abastecen el 90% de los alimentos del mundo, las abejas polinizan más del 70% de ellos. También, polinizan más de 25.000 especies de plantas con flores. Sin estos insectos la actividad agrícola prácticamente desaparecería, generando consecuencias catastróficas.

Otra forma de cómo el ser humano deteriora la tierra es mediante la generación y disposición inapropiada de una impresionante cantidad de desechos sólidos, al respecto el Programa de las Naciones Unidas para el Medio Ambiente, PNMA establece que en el mundo se producen entre 7,000 y 10,000 millones de toneladas de basura por año y que una gran parte de esta no se dispone adecuadamente, provocando un serio problema de contaminación ambiental y de salud pública.

La quema de combustibles fósiles es otra forma de contaminación ambiental que impacta negativamente en la salud de la población, pero que además junto a la degradación forestal, aumentan la concentración de gases de efecto invernadero en la atmósfera, provocando un peligroso cambio climático que ya ha cobrado miles de vidas y amenaza seriamente la existencia del ser humano.
Lo que le sucede a la tierra, les sucede a las personas, si nos interesa que nuestro planeta siga siendo un lugar habitable es necesario que todos asumamos la responsabilidad de cuidarlo.

earth day 2021 votbFB

EARTH DAY

 
Every April 22nd, International Earth Day is celebrated as an opportune occasion to reflect on what is happening to our planet and raise awareness about the need to drastically change paradigms and individual and collective behaviors that devastate the earth.

The earth is our common home that was formed approximately 4.5 billion years ago, its evolution made possible the conditions for life to emerge, about a billion years later. The ozone layer and the earth’s magnetic field block harmful solar radiation, while the atmosphere retains enough solar energy for a climate and an ideal temperature for life, likewise water and the existence of various physical and chemical processes make life possible for animals and plants, which interact in a dynamic and sustainable balance.

The scientific community estimates that there are 8.7 million species on the planet, of which only 1.3 million have been recorded, which means that approximately 86% of terrestrial species and 91% of marine species are still unknown. While human beings depend on the aforementioned biological wealth; they are the only species in existence actively contributing to its extinction. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), “5,200 species of vertebrate animals are in serious danger of disappearing.”

One of the main reasons for this loss of species is deforestation. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), 129 million hectares of forest have been eliminated between 1990 and 2016. The reason: large-scale commercial agriculture, which causes 40% of deforestation worldwide and 70% in Latin America, while mining and urban sprawl are other major causes.

Industrial agriculture also brings with it the indiscriminate use of pesticides. Currently, some 5,000 million tons of toxic pesticides are being manufactured and used every year, which has a direct impact on the pollution of ecosystems and the extinction of species, such as bees. An analysis carried out on a European scale published by Greenpeace indicates that two-thirds of the pollen collected by bees is contaminated by insecticides, acaricides, fungicides and herbicides marketed by companies like Bayern, Syngenta and Basf. These companies are causing the death of millions of hives.

Bees matter because they are essential for human life, according to FAO, there are 100 species of crops that supply 90% of the world’s food and bees pollinate more than 70% of them. Bees also pollinate more than 25,000 species of flowering plants. Without these insects, agricultural activity would practically disappear, generating catastrophic consequences.

Another way humans are helping the earth deteriorate is through the generational and inappropriate disposal of impressive amounts of solid waste. The United Nations Environment Program (PNMA) estimates that humans produce between 7,000 and 10,000 million tons of garbage per year and that a large part of it is not disposed of properly, causing serious environmental and public health problems.

The burning of fossil fuels is another form of environmental pollution that negatively impacts the health of the population, but also, together with forest degradation, increases the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, causing dangerous climate change that has already claimed thousands of lives and seriously threatens human existence.

What happens to the earth, happens to the people, if we are interested in our planet continuing to be a habitable one, it is necessary that we all assume the responsibility of taking care of it.

COVID 19, Food Security, Public Health

Moving with Purpose: Addressing the Food Security Crisis in Morazán

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As El Salvador slowly but surely reopens, VOICES has also made the decision to return to field work, only after considering all factors and strategically planning the necessary safety protocols that you can read here in English.

Right now, VOICES is prioritizing two significant issues: the lack of access to education in the Bajo Lempa and promoting sustainable living in Morazán. The latter, is a recently established initiative to combat the food security crisis caused by the negative impacts on food production due to COVID-19. Last week we held a special development meeting with the other local collaborators involved in this project, and briefly visited some of the sites of the Morazán families that will participate.

CLICK HERE to learn more


Moviéndose con Propósito: Abordando a la Crisis de Seguridad Alimentaria en Morazán

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Como El Salvador está comenzando a reabrir lenta pero seguramente, VOCES también ha tomado la decisión de regresar al trabajo de campo, solo después de considerar todos los factores y planificar estratégicamente los protocolos de seguridad necesarios que puede leer aquí en Español.

En este momento, VOCES está priorizando dos temas importantes: la falta de acceso a la educación en el Bajo Lemma y la promoción de una vida sostenible en Morazán. Esta última es una iniciativa recientemente establecida para combatir la crisis de seguridad alimentaria causada por los impactos negativos en la producción de alimentos debido a COVID-19. La semana pasada tuvimos una reunión especial de desarrollo con los otros colaboradores locales involucrados en este proyecto, y visitamos brevemente algunos de los sitios de las familias de Morazán que participarán en él.

HAGA CLIC AQUÍ para aprender mas

COVID 19, El Salvador Government, human rights, News Highlights, Public Health, U.S. Relations

President Nayib Bukele’s First Year (UPDATED)

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On June 1, 2019 Nayib Bukele became the President of the Republic of El Salvador, ending three decades of bipartisanship in which the right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) held the presidency for 20 years and the Farabundo Marti Libertation Front (FMLN) for 10 years. 

According to a May 24th opinion poll published in the Prensa Grafica, 92% of the population supports the president’s administration of the country.  Those polled recognized his main achievement being a notable improvement in the country’s security situation.

The official figures indeed reflect a decrease in the number of homicides in El Salvador, where the rate per 100,000 inhabitants went from 51 in 2018 to 35.8 in 2019. Since July 2019, the monthly number of homicides has remained below 200. January 2020 unfortunately suffered high homicide rates, yet even with 119 homicides and  a daily average of 3.8, it was still 60% less than January 2019. According to the government, these are the lowest figures since the 1992 Peace Accords.

While the government’s achievements aren’t being questioned, their performance sometimes is.  One of Bukele’s most criticized actions was the militarization of Parliament for a few hours, which lead the The New York Times to weigh in: “What Bukele did in February 2020, was a watershed in Salvadoran democratic history. After several weeks of discussing the legislative authorization to negotiate a 109 million dollar loan for his security plan with parliament members, a Bukele with the pretense of dictator addressed the Legislative Assembly with military and police in tow.”  

As expected, Ronald Johnson, the United States Ambassador to El Salvador reacted to the President’s  bold move by tweeting the next day: “I did not approve of the presence of @FUERZARMADA at @AsambleaSV yesterday and I was relieved that this tense situation ended without violence.  I now recognize the calls for patience and prudence.  I join all actors who are asking for a peaceful dialogue to move forward.” 

It should be noted that for the last three months, Bukele has ruled in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic in a way that a large percentage of the population approves of. However, from the viewpoint of respected human rights organizations, there are serious concerns about the drastic measures being imposed in the name of public safety and the authoritarian ways being used to enforce them.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, addressed the topic by stating: “International law allows governments to restrict some rights when faced with an emergency such as the one caused by COVID-19.  However, these measures must be necessary and proportional.  These must also be in accordance with the Constitution and international human rights norms and standards.  There must also be binding judicial and legislative oversight for the executive branch, and the executive must abide by it.  I am concerned that this has not been the case in El Salvador and that the government is therefore in breach of the fundamental principles of the rule of law.” 

President Bukele is currently in the spotlight for his involvement in a systematic confrontation with other State organs. The José Simeón Cañas University (UCA), recently published an evaluation of the government’s first year of administration, it is stated that: during the year, the President of the Republic spent more critical time fighting with the other organs of the State, especially with the opposition parties and the Legislative Assembly, than ruling the country. Another criticism is the lack of failing to follow through on concrete plans concerning the country’s major issues. Regarding this, the UCA indicated that: the plans announced by the President throughout the year on issues related to health, economic reactivation and the installation of the International Commission for the Fight against Corruption and Impunity in El Salvador (CICIES) did not materialize in reality.

On environmental issues, he has been criticized for the lack of any real plans and policies. According to a statement, recently published by a group of environmental organizations: In the current government, the environment policy is almost non-existent, we are very concerned that the budget of the Ministry of Environment was reduced despite the   ongoing destruction of valuable ecosystems, as if this institution plays an irrelevant role. 

Economically speaking, President Bukele did a great job to improve the economy, beginning in June 2019. According to the Salvadoran Foundation for Economic and Social Development (FUSADES), the Salvadoran economy will have a tendency to increase its dynamism in the second half of 2019, the perception on the investment climate, which after 10 years of unfavorable perception, saw a significant change in its trend from the second quarter of 2019. The same source establishes that the Salvadoran economy experienced an increase towards the end of 2019,  from 1.8% in the first two quarters of the year, to 3% during the third and fourth quarters. In general, almost all sectors recorded higher growth in the fourth quarter of 2019. In annual terms, economic growth for 2019 stood at 2.4%

This upward tendency of improvement was abruptly interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. While we fully acknowledge that this unfortunate reality is in many ways a  phenomena, we still see the importance in analyzing it since it will affect the future of the country for the years to come.

For example, in its most recent Economic Situation Analysis report, FUSADES highlights that among formal and informal employment activities, around 226,000 workers lost their jobs in April, which represents 7.5% of the total EAP. This figure exceeds the national unemployment rate. If people can’t earn income for two months, poverty would go from 30.9% to 42.5%, which implies that approximately 654,000 people would enter poverty. Similarly, if income loss extends to four months, poverty would rise to 51.4%.

In conclusion, we can say that El Salvador, like other impoverished counties, struggles greatly with political, social and economic challenges, which have historical and structural roots and make it difficult for a new government to achieve many things in their first year. That being said, 365 days is enough time to visualize the direction and style of governing and in the case of President Bukele, despite what is justifiably questioned, the vast majority of Salvadorans approve of his performance.


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Primer Año del Presidente Nayib Bukele

El 1 de junio de 2019, Nayib Bukele se convirtió en el presidente de la república de El Salvador, poniendo fin a tres décadas de bipartidismo en las que la derechista Alianza Republicana Nacionalista, ARENA ocupó la presidencia por 20 años y el FMLN durante 10 años. 

Transcurrido un año en el poder, según una encuesta de opinión, publicada el pasado 24 de mayo, el 92% de la población respalda la gestión del presidente. La población consultada le reconoce como el logro principal una notable mejora de la seguridad del país. 

Las cifras oficiales reflejan un descenso en el número de homicidios en El Salvador, donde la tasa por cada 100.000 habitantes pasó de 51 en el años 2018 a 35.8 en 2019. La tendencia a la baja es más notable desde que Bukele asumió la presidencia. Desde julio 2019, la cifra mensual de homicidios se mantuvo por debajo de 200. Siendo enero de 2020 uno de los meses récord, con 119 homicidios con un promedio diario de 3.8 (60% menos que el mismo mes del año anterior). Según el gobierno, se trata de la cifra más baja desde los Acuerdos de Paz de 1992.

En el sentido inverso de sus logros están los cuestionamientos a su desempeño. Una de las acciones mayormente criticadas fue la militarización, por algunas horas, del Parlamento, al respecto el periódico The New York Times publicó: “Fue un parteaguas en la historia democrática salvadoreña lo que hizo Bukele en febrero de 2020. Tras varias semanas de discutir con los diputados la autorización legislativa para negociar un préstamo de 109 millones para su plan de seguridad, un Bukele con ínfulas de dictador se tomó la Asamblea Legislativa con militares y policías.”

Como era de esperar, Ronald Johnson el Embajador de los Estados Unidos en El Salvador, reaccionó ante este hecho por twitter: “No apruebo la presencia de la @FUERZARMADA en la @AsambleaSV ayer y me sentí aliviado que esa tensa situación terminó sin violencia. Ahora reconozco los llamados a la paciencia y la prudencia. Me uno a todos los actores que están pidiendo un dialogo pacifico para avanzar.” 

Es de hacer notar que durante tres meses, Nayib Bukele, ha gobernado en medio de la pandemía por el covid19. En este sentido un amplio porcentaje de la población le reconoce un buen manejo de la crisis; no obstante, de parte de prestigiosas organizaciones de derechos humanos, hay serios señalamientos sobre las drásticas medidas impuestas y la forma autoritaria para hacerlas cumplir.

Sobre este tema, la Alta Comisionada de las Naciones Unidas para los Derechos Humanos, Michelle Bachelet, expresó:El derecho internacional permite a los gobiernos restringir algunos derechos cuando se enfrentan a una emergencia como la causada por la COVID-19. Sin embargo, estas medidas deben ser necesarias y proporcionales. Estas deben además estar en concordancia con la Constitución y las normas y estándares internacionales de derechos humanos. También debe haber supervisión judicial y legislativa vinculante para el poder ejecutivo, y el ejecutivo debe acatarla. Me preocupa que este no ha sido el caso en El Salvador y que el gobierno está, por consiguiente, faltando a los principios fundamentales del estado de derecho.

Por otra parte, el presidente Bukele, se ha caracterizado por una sistemática confrontación con los demás órganos de Estado. En un editorial publicado por la Universidad José Simeón Cañas (UCA), con motivo de evaluar el primer año de gestión gubernamental, se afirma que, durante el año, el presidente de la República pasó más tiempo criticando y peleando con los demás órganos del Estado, especialmente con los partidos de oposición y la Asamblea Legislativa, que gobernando el país.

Otra de las críticas es la carencia de planes concretos que marquen el rumbo a seguir en los grandes temas de país, la misma institución académica señala: los planes anunciados por el presidente a lo largo del año en temas relacionados a la salud, reactivación económica e instalación de la Comisión Internacional Para el Combate de la Corrupción y la Impunidad en El Salvador (CICIES) no se concretaron en la realidad.

En el tema ambiental, igualmente se le ha recriminado la ausencia de planes y políticas: En el actual gobierno, la política de medio ambiente es casi inexistente, vemos con mucha preocupación que el presupuesto del Ministerio de Medio Ambiente fue reducido a pesar de la destrucción de valiosos ecosistemas, dicha institución está teniendo un rol irrelevante, Expresa un grupo de organizaciones ambientalistas, en un comunicado, publicado recientemente.

En el tema económico hay que reconocerle al presidente Bukele que el ritmo de la economía mejoró a partir de junio de 2019.  Según la Fundación Salvadoreña para el Desarrollo Económico y Social (FUSADES), la economía salvadoreña registró una tendencia a aumentar su dinamismo en la segunda mitad de 2019, la percepción sobre el clima de inversión, la que luego de 10 años de percibirse desfavorable, registró un cambio importante en su tendencia a partir del segundo trimestre de 2019.

La misma fuente establece que la economía salvadoreña experimentó un incremento hacia finales de 2019, pasando de 1.8% en los dos primeros trimestres del año, a 3% durante el tercero y cuarto trimestres. En general, casi todos los sectores registraron un crecimiento mayor en el cuarto trimestre de 2019. Con esto, en términos anuales el crecimiento económico para 2019 se situó en 2.4%.

Esa tendencia a mejorar se vio súbitamente interrumpida por la pandemia del covid19, por las medidas adoptadas para enfrentarla. Podría considerarse que esta realidad está al margen de la evaluación del primer año de gobierno del presidente Bukele; sin embargo, es importante analizarla ya que incidirá en el futuro del país para los próximos años.

Por ejemplo, en su informe más reciente sobre Análisis de Coyuntura Económica, en el tema del empleo FUSADES destaca que entre actividades formales e informales alrededor de 226 mil trabajadores podrían haber perdido su empleo a abril, lo cual significa el 7.5% del PEA total. Esta cifra supera la tasa de desempleo nacional.  Si los ingresos se pierden dos meses para las personas que se quedan sin trabajo, la pobreza pasaría de 30.9% a 42.5%, lo que implica que aproximadamente 654 mil personas entrarían a la pobreza. Asimismo, si la afectación sobre estas personas se extendiera cuatro meses, el porcentaje de pobreza se elevaría hasta 51.4%.

En conclusión, se puede afirmar que El Salvador, como todo país empobrecido presenta grandes desafíos políticos, sociales y económicos, que tienen raíces históricas y estructurales frente a los cuales, es muy poco lo que un gobierno puede lograr en un año; no obstante, es un tiempo suficiente para visualizar el rumbo y estilo de gobernar. Para el caso del presidente Bukele, a pesar de lo que justificadamente se le cuestiona, es notable que la gran mayoría de salvadoreños y salvadoreñas aprueban su desempeño.


https://www.laprensagrafica.com/elsalvador/Piden-al-presidente-Bukele-usar-bien-su-alta-aprobacion-20200524-0061.html

https://www.laprensagrafica.com/lpgdatos/Bukele-cierra-su-primer-ano-de-trabajo-con-alta-aprobacion-20200523-0072.html

https://www.laprensagrafica.com/internacional/Bukele-y-la-violencia-en-El-Salvador-cuanto-ha-influido-en-la-reduccion-de-homicidios-el-plan-de-seguridad-por-el-que-el-mandatario-militarizo-el-Congreso-20200218-0018.html

https://www.nytimes.com/es/2020/04/20/espanol/opinion/bukele-el-salvador-virus.htmlhttps://elfaro.net/es/202003/el_salvador/24110/La-historia-detr%C3%A1s-del-d%C3%ADa-en-que-Bukele-se-tom%C3%B3-la-Asamblea-Legislativa.html

El Salvador: Bachelet preocupada por la erosión del estado de derecho en medio de las medidas para la COVID-19

Click to access Informe%20de%20Coyuntura%20Econo%CC%81mica_mayo%202020_3.pdf

COVID 19, human rights, News Highlights, Public Health, solidarity

A Note for Healthcare Heroes

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HATS OFF! to all the fantastic Frontline Healthcare Workers worldwide– who through their dedication, hard work, sacrifice and an adherence to a certain oath, are helping to save humankind as we know it.

Today especially, we recognize the bravery that’s being required of these #UnsungHeroes, who despite politics and bureaucracy, continue to fervently provide essential health services to anyone in need, even as a virulent pandemic looms across the globe.

We hope that your governments, institutions and communities are finding ways to support you, by giving you what you need to stay safe and sane.

To everyone else out there, if you can.. #StayHome, so that they can come home.

agriculture, Agua/Aqua, Climate Change, COVID 19, Economy, El Salvador Government, Food Security, Public Health, Water/Agua

LA OTRA CRISIS EN EL SALVADOR

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“El Salvador Soberano Libre de Agrotoxicos y transgénicos”

A la desigualdad económica, violencia social y vulnerabilidad ambiental que se vive en El Salvador desde hace décadas, ahora se suma con toda su intensidad, el impacto en la salud pública y en la economía de la pandemia por el covid19.

El Banco Mundial estima que la economía de El Salvador se contraerá 4.3% y la pobreza aumentará 4% en 2020. El último dato publicado por el gobierno, indica que el 26.3% de los hogares ya viven en condición de pobreza; es decir que el covid19 puede hacer que la pobreza suba al 30% de los hogares salvadoreños, lo que equivale a más de 66 mil hogares que caeran en la pobreza.1

La razón principal de esta realidad es que las medidas impuestas por el gobierno para contener la pandemia ha afectado al 95% de las empresas y por lo menos el 60% reportan que ya no cuentan con dinero para pagar salarios, por lo que 350,000 empleos estan en riesgo inminente de perderse.2 Adicionalmente hay que tener en cuenta que el 72% de la economía salvadoreña es de carácter informal,3 y que este sector es el más golpeado por la pandemia.

Sumandose a la ya complicada situación, está la dependencia del país con respecto a las remesas. Más de 300 mil hogares, la sexta parte de la población, reciben remesas; en 2019 estas representaron el 21.3% del producto interno bruto de El Salvador. Para el 2020 se estima una caida por lo menos del 14% en este rubro,4 ya que Estados Unidos está registrando un récord histórico de desempleo en sectores donde laboran salvadoreños: restaurantes, comercio y construcción.

Sin duda la primera y más profunda manifestación de la crisis económica será en la alimentación. Sobre este tema el Director Ejecutivo del Programa Mundial de Alimentos, de la Organización de las Naciones Unidas, ONU. David Beasley, recientemente dijo: “si no nos preparamos ahora podríamos enfrentar múltiples hambrunas de proporciones biblícas en unos pocos meses”.5 En El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras y Nicaragua, incluso antes de la pandemia, la inseguridad alimentaria y nutricional se había incrementado y alcanzaba los 4.4 millones de personas; a consecuencia de la pandemia se estima que esta cifra podría duplicarse.6

Para el caso específico de El Salvador la seguridad alimentaria se ha visto afectada por diferentes factores, desde políticas de apertura comercial que arruinaron la agricultura campesina en décadas anteriores, hasta impactos del cambio climático que en los últimos años se ha manifestado en consecutivas y profundas sequías. En 2019, la falta de lluvias dejó pérdidas de producción del 61% y 55% en los cultivos de maíz y frijol. La disminución y en algunos casos la pérdida completa de los granos básicos dejó en crisis a muchas familias, sobre todo aquellas en donde la agricultura es la única fuente de ingresos para subsistir. Resultando en que 277,769 familias, especialmente del oriente del país, antes de la pandemia, ya se encontraban en graves problemas alimentarios.7

Esta situación puede agravarse, también porque El Salvador depende en muy alto grado de las importaciones de alimentos; por ejemplo, el 90% de las frutas y verduras provienen de países centroamericanos y de Estados Unidos. La carne de res, harina de trigo, arroz, maíz amarillo y lácteos, son otros de los productos que se importan en grandes proporciones. Un riesgo potencialmente grave es que los países productores restrijan sus exportaciones para enfrentar la caída de su producción y la alimentación de sus propios pueblos.

En tal sentido, es de extrema importancia asegurar la disponibilidad de alimentos básicos especialmente para la población más vulnerable, de lo contrario los indices de desnutrición se verán aumentados y el covid 19 será más fatal debido a la carencia de una alimentación adecuada.8

De momento, el gobierno salvadoreño está entregando dinero en efectivo para suplir la alimentación básica de un millón y medio de familias, además ha anunciado una serie de medidas económicas de beneficio a la empresa privada con el fin de aliviar los impactos en el empleo. Aunque se están tomando algunas medidas positivas, lamentablemente no son sostenibles porque su financiamiento depende de los préstamos y la capacidad de endeudamiento del estado salvadoreño que está llegando a su límite.

Todo parece indicar que la alternativa más viable es la producción agrícola familiar, de forma masiva en todo el país, cualquier espacio de tierra disponible, sea en la zona rural o urbana, en la costa o la montaña, debería utilizarse para producir alimentos saludables, de lo contrario, en el corto plazo, la comida comenzará a escasear, de forma realmente temible.

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A family farm in Morazán

THE OTHER CRISIS IN EL SALVADOR

Economic inequality, social violence and environmental vulnerability have been experienced for decades in El Salvador. Added now to this reality however, in all its intensity, is the impact that the current pandemic is having on public health and the economy.

The World Bank estimates that El Salvador’s economy will decrease by 4.3% and poverty will increase by 4% in 2020. The latest data published by the government indicates that 26.3% of households already live in poverty; that is to say that COVID19 can increase the rate to 30%, which is equivalent to more than 66,000 households, all falling into poverty.1

This is happening in part because the measures imposed by the government to contain the pandemic have affected 95% of companies and at least 60% of them report that they no longer have the money to pay wages, this means 350,000 jobs are at an imminent risk of disappearing.2 Also, what must be taken into mind is the fact that 72% of El Salvador’s economy is informal,3 the informal sector of course being the most affected during this pandemic.

Adding to this already complicated situation, is the country’s dependence on remittances. More than 300,000 households, or one-sixth of the population receive them. In 2019, these money transfers represented 21.3% of El Salvador’s GDP. For 2020, since the US is registering a historical record of unemployment in sectors where Salvadorans work i.e restaurants, commerce and construction, a drop in remittances of at least 14% is estimated.4

Undoubtedly, the first and most profound manifestation of the economic crisis will be the issue of food. On the subject, David Beasley, Executive Director of the UN World Food Program recently said, “If we don’t prepare now we could face multiple famines of biblical proportions in a few months.5 Even before the pandemic, 4.4million people in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, were already experiencing an increase in food and nutritional insecurity, and as a result of COVID19 this figure is estimated to double.6

In the specific case of El Salvador, food security has been impacted by distinct factors, from trade liberalization policies that ruined peasant agriculture in previous decades, to the impacts of climate change that in recent years has manifested itself in consecutive and deep droughts. In 2019, the lack of rains left production losses at 61% in corn and 55% in bean crops. The decrease and in some cases the complete loss of these basic crops left many families in crisis, especially those where agriculture is their only source of income. Last year’s drought resulted in 277,769 families, many from the eastern part of the country, experiencing serious food problems.7

Things can get worse because El Salvador depends to a very high degree on food imports; for example, 90% of fruits and vegetables come from other Central American countries and the US. Beef, wheat flour, rice, yellow corn, and dairy are other products that are imported in large quantities. A potentially serious risk is that the producing nations eventually restrict their exports to go and deal with their own reduction in production and to be able to feed their own people. In this sense, it is extremely important to ensure the availability of basic foods, especially for the most vulnerable populations, otherwise malnutrition rates will increase and COVID19 will prove more deadly due to an inadequate access to food.8

At the moment, the Salvadoran government is giving out cash aid to supply the basic needs of one million and a half families, and has also announced a series of economic measures to benefit private companies in order to alleviate the impact on employment. Although positive measures are being taken, they unfortunately are not sustainable because their financing depends on loans and the debt capacity of the Salvadoran state which is reaching its limit.

Everything seems to indicate that the most viable alternative is family agricultural production on a massive scale throughout the entire country. Any available land space, be it in rural or urban, coast or mountain, should be used to produce healthy food, otherwise, in a short period of time, food will become scarce in a really frightening way.


Click here to donate to our COVID19 Emergency fund.


education, Public Health, Voices Developments, Womens issues, Youth Development

Our Note on the COVID19 Situation El Salvador

Download the PDF letter

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March 19, 2020

Dear Friend,

El Salvador, like many countries around the world, is reeling from the effects of COVID19. To clamp down on the spread of the virus, on March 15th, the government declared a state of emergency and approved a partial suspension of constitutional rights. What does that look like?

  • Foreigners are prohibited from entering the country by land, air or sea. All who enter illegally or legally are subject to a mandatory quarantine in a government run facility.
  • All educational activities are suspended, private and public.
  • Crowd sizes exceeding fifty people, such as concerts or sporting events are canceled.
  • All bars, cafes and discos are closed; restaurants can only offer delivery or take out.
  • Trade will continue normally. Commercial activities will remain unchanged, including imports and exports, under the proper sanitary control at customs.
  • People are told to shelter in place and only venture out if truly necessary.

On March 18th, El Salvador registered it’s first single confirmed case of the virus, from a Salvadoran returning from Italy, who defied the barrier the President put in place around the perimeter of the country. Because of citizen denouncements, he was picked up and tested positive for the virus and subsequently the entire municipality of Metapan, in the department of Santa Ana has been cordoned off for the next 48 hours in an effort to find his line of infection.

Impacts on the Salvadoran Society
The majority of the population has reacted with panic, no matter how many calls for calm are made. Supermarkets are crowded and supplies are beginning to become scarce, partly because there is hoarding and price inflations. For example in some places bottled water is selling for three times its normal price.

Bukele has said that the department of labor will do what it can to make sure employers and workers are economically supported during the quarantine, but every hour labor abuses are being called out via social media of workers being indiscriminately laid, off, mistreated or made to work when they aren’t supposed to.
The sectors most economically impacted by this national quarantine are the service industry, domestic workers, day laborers, street vendors, factory and sweatshop workers. Also affected are those Salvadoran families who already live in El Salvador’s precarious situation of water shortage. For young girls and women who face abuse at home, the situation of isolation becomes even more serious. It encourages victim control and greater submission of the victim.

Impacts on VOICES’ work
VOICES, like other NGOs, is having to adapt to these measures. For example, this situation forced us to cancel the annual South Bay Sanctuary Covenant delegation this March, as well as suspend the special delegation of teachers from Amando López to the United States in April.
Likewise, the SBSC fundraising event scheduled for April 26 in California, at which our director was to speak, was canceled.

Also with the suspension of classes the reproduction phase of the ECHO project workshops in Morazán is on hold; likewise, some community activities, workshops and meetings.

It’s safe to say that human rights don’t simply go away because of a national quarantine, and neither will VOICES’ commitment to accompanying our local partners as best as we can. As an organization, VOICES’ staff are adhering to the rules put in place by working from home.
This involves catching up on programming materials and fine tuning our evaluation frameworks, but we are also finding other ways to support our partners in the following ways:

Women’s Network of Morazán (9 municipalities served)
– Providing 15 canasta basicas for the Network’s most vulnerable members and their families.

Amando Lopez grade school (9 communities served)
– While some students may enjoy the meal provided by the school, other families may see it as a lifeline. The school’s staff compiled a list of 88 students who are most at risk from malnutrition and we will work with them to find the best way to help feed these kids during the quarantine.

Youth Development Association of Morazán (3 communities served)
– This inspiring youth group has had to cancel all of their programming including their special activities, community events, workshops and schools like their school of nutrition, which not only serves as a means to teach recipes, but also supports families’ ability to practice food sovereignty through the family farms component. We will work with AJUDEM to ensure that those most affected will have access to plants, seeds and compost to keep their farms growing.

El Salvador is a resilient country full of ingenuity and as long as we continue to practice true solidarity, we will all be able to come out of this pandemic with heads high and the prospect for a brighter more sustainable future.

Atentamente,
The VOICES Team

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agriculture, Agua/Aqua, Climate Change, El Salvador Government, Environment, Food Security, Public Health, Uncategorized, Water/Agua

MOVIAC Marches to Promote Agroecology in El Salvador


 

The organizations that make up the Movement of Victims Affected by Climate Change and Corporations (MOVIAC), took to the streets of San Salvador alongside environmental activists to create awareness about the negative impacts the indiscrimate use of Agrochemicals has on the health and safety of El Salvador.

According to MOVIAC, “Agroecology brings together sustainable and ancestral agricultural practices in order to unify the relationship between nature and humans and guarantee food saftey.”

Farmers, families, educators, leaders, young and old, marched together towards the Legislative Assembly to present a proposed law for the promotion of Agroecology, as a way to mitigate the impacts of climate change. They were met by senior government officials on the environmental committee and were able to submit the documents.

 


 

LEER MÁS↓

Diariocolatino: Propuesta de Ley de Fomento de la Agroecologia sera Presentada la Semana Proxima
DiarioLibre: Exigen Ley para Impulsar la Agroecologia en El Salvador y Prohibir Pesticidas
education, Public Health, Sexual and Reproductive Health

ECHO El Salvador has Moved to Morazán

ECHO El Salvador has expanded it’s reach and is wrapping up its first training session for educators and health promoters in the department of Morazán.

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Maritza and Evelyn; our local coordinators

With the help of a great local coordination team and support from from both the ministry of health and education, we were able to compile an impressive list of participants who have been coming together every saturday to receive the training courses from the  team of experts from the University of New Mexico School of Medicine.

We learned a lot from our work down in the Bajo Lempa which prompted us make some changes to the program here in the East. For example, during our Morazán conscription, we made sure to invite not only teachers but their directors as well, so that once the training is over the school teams will have an easier time planning and replicating the classes in their respective institutions.

 

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We also hope to have greater success with local capacitation in the communities, which is why we invited Daniel Perez, Morazán’s health promoter supervisor, to attend this first training session. Not only did he accept but has also offered to assist us in the coordination and monitoring of his team once they are on the ground and imparting classes.

In the Bajo Lempa, we trained 60 participants from six different communities and in Morazán, a total of 75 participants from 16 municipalities will receive training.

Stay tuned to see their progress.

 

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education, Public Health, Sexual and Reproductive Health, youth

Evaluating the ECHO Model in the Bajo Lempa

The training portion of Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) came to an end last month with the second and final session of Bajo Lempa participants being certified as Sexual and Reproductive Health educators by a group of medical professionals from the University of New Mexico. In total, 41 teachers and 17 community health promoters participated in the program.

Over the last two weeks we had the pleasure of hosting Nutritionist, Grace Palm and Gynecologist, Hannah Palm; the two health education consultants from UNM. Since the beginning, these two young doctors have showed nothing but dedication and proved vital in the development of ECHO materials and as facilitators during the video trainings. They came to visit the communities, conduct in-person focus studies and sit in on some of the classes being replicated during their stay.

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Two groups of teachers, one group of health promoters and one group of school administrators participated in the focus studies where conversations were constructive, collaborative and full of ideas for the future. The classes they observed were well prepared and well taught and most teachers adapted ECHO’s methodology to fit their own group dynamics.

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Jose Acosta, VOICES’ director expressed during the final evaluation with school administrators, “If this proves a successful method to adequately capacitate those who’s role it is to impart such programs, the goal to ultimately implement the ECHO model into the education curriculum can be realized.

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The two with their host family and VOICES’ executive director.

Photos of classes being reproduced in schools and communities: